There are lots of graduation ceremonies this time of year, and members of the Missouri Adult Education and Literacy program's Mid-MO Adult Learning Center got their chance Thursday to turn their tassels as they graduated with high school equivalency degrees.
Graduate Autumn Mitchell's daughter, Aurora, is probably too young to later remember being carried across the stage at the Miller Performing Arts Center in Jefferson City, in her mom's arms as Mitchell got her degree.
"Never give up," was the advice Mitchell gave her daughter to read in the future, along with the guidance to "follow her dreams."
"Never let someone tell you you can't do it," fellow graduate Mariah Houston advised those still working toward their high school equivalency degrees, adding "attendance is everything."
The Mid-MO Adult Learning Center's Director Stephany Schler said there were approximately 60 graduates in this year's class who attended free classes at sites including in Jefferson City, Fulton, Versailles, Eldon and California to work to pass their high school equivalency tests, or HiSETs; about 25 walked across the stage. Schler said many of the other graduates were unable to attend due to work or other education classes.
Schler is also the director of Jefferson City Public Schools' Adult Education and Literacy Program — the JCPS-hosted hub from which the Mid-MO Adult Learning Center's other area locations are also directed. All of the programs are funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The class of 2018 includes the following members, as printed in Thursday's graduation ceremony program:
Jefferson City daytime high school equivalency program: Austin O. Atterberry; Landon Latall; Kate Linhardt; Lyndzie N. Mattox; Jessie Sandbothe; Hannah R. Smith; Krystal G. Stephens; Aura Velasquez; Tanisha M. Warmack; and Nathan P. Wright.
Jefferson City evening HSE program: Anthony D. Akers; Jordan A. Banks; Damean K. Hayes; Mariah M. Houston; Tim Kerr; Nakia B. Knepp; Autumn B. Mitchell; Stephen K. Owens; Abigayle M. Porter; Ryan K. Snow; Angela Thompson; Jessica N. Triplett; Megan A. Umfleet; and Shanika Wilson.
Eldon HSE: Shyann A. Ponder.
Fulton HSE: Travis Cain; Stephanie Gilbert; Summer Hendrix; Mara Hubbard; Sherry Stamper; Mary Rumbaugh; and Ethan Wilmsmeyer.
Versailles HSE: Destiny Armstrong; Jesse Farris; Jesse Jantz; Julia Street; Malinda Talbott; Timothy Weaver; Makaela Wilbers; and Barry Zimmerman.
Schler said about 84 percent of those who passed the HiSET this year earned college and career-readiness certification in at least one subject area of the test.
The graduates heard from several speakers who gave them advice on how to do whatever they do next.
"Whatever you want to do, go after it with passion," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said.
"You guys are the exception," Jefferson City Public Schools Superintendent Larry Linthacum said, citing a statistic that less than one out of every five people who does not graduate from high school goes on to finish and earn their equivalency degree.
Linthacum encouraged the graduates to set goals, work together and persevere.
"This is a good country of opportunity; use it," Judith Ntimpa said. Ntimpa is a 2014 HSE graduate.
She briefly shared her story of how she grew up in Rwanda, left when she was 17 years old to spend another 17 years in a refugee camp, came to the United States in September 2009, starting learning English — her fifth language — and a month later, became a U.S. citizen graduating this May from State Technical College in Linn with a career in nursing ahead of her.
The first local class of National Adult Education Honor Society inductees was also recognized at the ceremony. The inductees included HSE graduates and English Speakers of Other Languages students: Blanca Corona, Fatima Martinez, Ana Perez, Vytautas "Vic" Pladas, Juan Jose Samol Putzul, Jesse Sandbothe, Tamara Spin, Malinda Talbott and Angela Thompson.
Two ESOL students who had passed their U.S. citizenship test and will be sworn in as citizens this summer were also recognized: Vytautas and Reda Pladas. Wang "Daniel" Jin Kun and Francisco Martinez could not be present.
C&S Business Services, Inc. sponsored the honor society inductees and a scholarship that helps students pay for the HiSET.