BRATTLEBORO >>Seven students walked at the Vermont Adult Learning graduation on Thursday evening.
In total, 43 students earned a high school credential, some walking away with a high school diploma from one of the schools in Windham County, a GED or both. Friends family and faculty were there to congratulate the graduates that were draped in royal blue with a proud smile stretched across their faces. Their achievements were noted by some of the staff at VAL and some students noted the journey it took for them to reach such an accomplishment.
"Hello my name is Kaleigh, I'm a teen mom and when I had my daughter I said to myself that I was going to get my diploma and finish school up for her so she can have a brighter future," said Kaleigh Maskell, 17, who graduated on Thursday evening. "With having my child and having to raise her while going to school, I knew I couldn't go to a regular high school with their schedule, but one day a family member told me about Vermont Adult Learning and how it would work around my schedule."
Maskell went on to say that she initially had fears that she would be unable to finish school and that she would be judged, but through the great support of her VAL faculty, she was not judged and was able to complete her schooling. Maskell noted she is excited to pursue a certification in early childhood development through Windham Childcare this fall.
Several students, other students accredited VAL's High School Completion Program Plan Manager, Cindy Holden for their success because of how she pushed them to their goals and kept them on task.
"One day I had a meeting with Cindy and she kind of told me that I could do it, which was really awesome because not a lot of people in the academic system told me I could do something like this, they would always say, 'no, you're a problem," Samantha Fisher,17, told the Reformer, who earned both a GED and high school diploma this year.
Another graduating student, Adam Manly, 20, said the attitude of faculty helped him complete his program, noting Holden, who got him set up with the right books and supported him through the process. Manly said he is interested in attending secondary education and possibly pursuing a business degree.
Fisher said she was having trouble in a traditional high school system and said that her experience with VAL has been "really positive" as they have encouraged her to attend college in the fall, and she was accepted and will pursue further education at Lyndon State College.
"Per aspera ad astra," Fisher said at the beginning of her speech. "Which is a Latin phrase, for 'through hardships to the stars.' I think that's just a fancy way of saying sometimes things are really difficult, but we're going to be better people for going through them."
In addition to student motivational speeches, Executive Director of VAL, Pixie Loomis, gave her two cents of encouraging words toward the graduating students. Loomis noted that their accomplishments were "extraordinary" and that reading this list of names of graduates have also "made the struggle," reminded her of a phrase.
"One person's hill is another person's mountain," said Loomis.
Loomis further noted that some may have known from the get go that they wanted to take an alternative path in education and other may have faced several "barriers" or "road block" along the way, but in any case the accomplishment will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
While Loomis had some words of inspiration, other such as a representative from Vermont Student Assistance Corp. mentioned some of the skills learned by the graduating seniors that are transferable for any future endeavours. The VSAC rep mentioned, that the students have learned how to ask for help, create a plan, remain open to new ideas and accept feedback, try different directions and how to keep their on the prize even in tough times.
It was also noted that 176 students earned a high school credential through VAL this year and six of the seven students present at the graduation are registered to vote.
After students were recognized for their awards and achievements, Holden noted again her pride in the student's accomplishments and to play them out with a celebratory and upbeat tune, "Happy" by Pharrell. Students family and faculty enjoyed light refreshments and each other's company after the commencement.
Students that walked at graduation were Samantha Fisher, Marissa Jones, Adam Manly, Xavier Slicer and Natasha Zawistoski.