05/11/12 — Students bring home diplomas from adult high school, GED ceremonies

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Students bring home diplomas from adult high school, GED ceremonies

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 11, 2012 1:46 PM

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Juan Reyes, left, and Irene Jaramillo embrace Thursday after Ms. Jaramillo's graduation ceremony. Reyes filmed their hug and later took pictures with his cell phone. Ms. Jaramillo graduated from Wayne Community College's Adult High School Program with honors. There were 45 adult high school diplomas awarded at the ceremony.

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Walnicia McNair, the commencement speaker, cries during her speech Thursday at Wayne Community College.

Billy Moses might have appeared composed Thursday night as he strode across the stage at Wayne Community College to receive his high school diploma.

But an even more appropriate word describes his journey there -- perseverance.

It took him nearly 10 years to accomplish the task. All because he hadn't taken it seriously as a youth.

"I was mostly a goof-off ... instead of paying attention to the things you're supposed to," he said of his initial stint in high school.

He dropped out in 10th grade, opting to baby-sit for his sister's twins, taking care of "family stuff," before realizing the importance of an education.

"You get to a point in your life where you say, what's going to benefit you?" he said. "You make your mind up, you're going to do it, if you want it bad enough.

"You can't prosper without an education. If you don't have it, you don't have too much to build from."

Not that there didn't continue to be interruptions along the way, but the 32-year-old stuck it out, at times being among the oldest in his classes.

"It's really all how you take it," he said. "You know what you came to get, you have got to want it. If you believe that you're worth it, you're going to stay."

Now, he has aspirations to go on to college, perhaps study something related to computers, he said.

The Basic Skills program at WCC conferred 45 adult high school diplomas and had 235 graduates in the General Educational Development, or GED, program.

Jonathan Alvarado, 21, earned his GED, while his sister, Ashley Alvarado, 19, graduated from the adult high school.

They make the fourth and fifth members of their family to complete the program, while another relative is still enrolled. It took two years, they said, but they had the encouragement of their parents.

"I actually did this for them," said Jonathan. "They're excited, emotional, happy for us."

Jonathan said he has been talking with recruiters and plans to go into the Army. Ashley is in the process of making plans for college, with aspirations to go into journalism.

Walnicia McNair, an honor graduate and commencement speaker, also found time to complete the certified nurse aide program. Her inspiration, she said, has been Tramyis Thompson, her 3-year-old son.

"It was definitely a struggle to find daycare and especially transportation, which cost me about $200 a month just to get back and forth to school," she said. "But it was through him that helped me realize that I couldn't give up, I couldn't quit.

"I want him to have a good life and not have to face, or go through some of the struggles I've faced."

For Irene Jaramillo, graduation represents "just the beginning of my dreams," she said.

"I have always wanted to do it. I love school," she said.

She dropped out 12 years ago and has been a stay-at-home mom to five children -- ages, 13, 11, 9, 6 and 18 months. She also had good jobs along the way but wanted something better.

The 32-year-old received more than a diploma this week -- she was also awarded a $700 scholarship, which she plans to apply toward a college degree in business administration.

"Hopefully in the fall, I'll start here, get an associate (degree) and hopefully transfer," she said before the ceremonies. "Oh, my, it's just, I'm just so excited.  I have waited so long and I'm just excited, speechless."

Lori Wells has been out of school as long as some of her classmates have been alive -- 32 years. At 49, she is the grandmother of three.

She said she meant to finish one day but always had a job so there didn't seem to be a pressing need.

Then she was terminated.

"I think it's mind of over matter," she said of returning to school. "I knew in my mind I have always wanted to do this and in my heart I wanted to do it. I just decided that this is what I wanted to do. ,,,

"Just to be able to walk across that stage finally and know that you deserve it, you have worked hard for it, it wasn't given to you, you had to do it. There are no words to describe that feeling."