(June 20, 2014) – Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Adult Education Coordinator Irene C. Riordan opened the Adult Education Graduation Ceremony on Wednesday, June 11, in the Stone Bridge High School auditorium, with some facts about the Adult Education graduating classes.
In the Class of 2014 there are 136 graduates. There are six adult high school students; 114 GED students; and 12 from the ISAEP program.
Joseph Agnich, acting division dean, natural and applied science at Northern Virginia Community College, delivered the keynote address for the audience of adult learners and their families.
“The value of education is that it gives you options. During my early adulthood, I worked a series of menial jobs, including work in a coal mine, steel mill and grave-digging. One day one of my bosses called me into his office and asked ‘Why don’t you go to school?’
“After considering my options, I worked during the day to support my family and attended George Washington University at night for 11 years before graduating.”
Agnich said education was an essential component of a free, successful society.
“Look at the world around us, totalitarianism, dictatorships and other severe regimes where people have limited freedoms are systems that limit education…especially for women. Countries where there is a high quality of life, freedom and more choices are at the other end of the spectrum and education is supported. Education opens doors…but that’s not enough. Getting a job is very different from keeping a job. What makes a difference is your behavior on the job. The two key elements necessary to keeping a job are character and communication.
“Keep doing what you’re doing. Try to make the world a better place for yourself and your children and you’ll make the world a better place for everyone else. Stay the course and be a lifelong learner. Be more than you ever were before.”
Amber Chapman of the Class of 2014 provided the first of two Graduates’ Viewpoint addresses. “I was always the girl who struggled with self-confidence,” Chapman admitted. “I dropped out of school at age 16. After friends and relatives repeatedly suggested that I should enroll and earn my GED, I still told myself that I would fail. But after three weeks of study, I asked myself, ‘What would happen if I really worked to succeed?’
“Today, here I am…I received my GED, I am a student at Northern Virginia Community College and I plan to major in pediatric nursing. It will be a job I will love…because I love working with kids.
“Do it,” Chapman challenged her classmates. “Don’t hold back. You deserve so much more than what you have now. There are people who will push you and support you all along the way.”
Yessika Paredes, a Guatemalan immigrant, shared with the audience that growing up she had always been an honor student; she was a flag holder in Guatemala which meant that she was the student with the best grade average. “Good grades were my hobby, you could say.”
But once in the United States, in Texas, things changed. Her grades began to slide. She found school more difficult and her interest began to wane. She didn’t understand why she no longer wanted to study. Was it that she was now a mother? Was it post-partum depression? She never understood why, but all of her enthusiasm for school disappeared.
Encouraged by her family, Paredes forced herself to get out of bed (where she hid during her bouts of depression) and enroll in school. She attempted to complete her studies, but she felt that it was too late. After having three children, a few years ago she decided to become a high school graduate. “I wanted to be an example for my children.”
“Thank you so much to my husband, children and teachers,” said Paredes. “I am 33 years old with three beautiful children and a high school degree.
“Please do not stop here,” she told her fellow graduates. “You have a bright future ahead of yourselves. This is only the first door opening for all of us. Believe in yourself.”
Caroline Ratliff performed the musical selection “I Hope you Dance” followed by the closing remarks of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Sharon D. Ackerman. “It is inspiring to be in your presence. You are on your way to a successful future. Congratulations to the Class of 2014.”
Also in attendance was At-Large Loudoun County School Board member Thomas E. Reed.