By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 9, 2014 1:46 PM
Kim Sutton delivers the student address at the graduation ceremony Thursday night at Wayne Community College.
Wayne Community College students eagerly wait for ceremonies to begin Thursday evening at the Adult High School and General Education Development program graduations. More than 400 students earned their degrees.
Kim Sutton is older than the typical student receiving a high school diploma.
But then, so were most of those crossing the stage in Moffatt Auditorium Thursday night.
The more than 400 candidates in the Wayne Community College Adult High School and General Educational Development, or GED, programs represented a variety of backgrounds and one thing in common -- the desire to have a brighter future.
For Ms. Sutton, student speaker for the ceremony, a 28-year-old single mother who works second shift at McDonald's, the pursuit was "hard" but worth it.
"Considering I have a child and have to do homework with her and homework with me, having to go to work and be on time," she said before the ceremony.
Adopted at birth, when she turned 15 her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The teenage years were fraught with poor decisions, she admitted, including finding herself having a child at 19.
"Don't get me wrong," she told the audience. "I love my daughter more than life itself. I just wish I had brought her into a better situation. I had no job, no education."
Today she has both. In addition to completing the requirements for the GED, she is pursuing a degree at the college in computer integrated machining.
"It is hard, but I am going to finish it because I know now how it feels to stick it out and accomplish something," she said.
The newfound confidence was unexpected, she said, much like the honor of being chosen to speak at her own graduation. It would be worth it if her 8-year-old daughter, Anijzah Darden, also reaped the benefits, she said.
"I want her to soak it in and realize that mommy has come far," she said.
Crystal Adams had three similar reasons for obtaining her GED -- ages 14, 11 and 8.
"My kids," she said. "I wanted to give them a better future.
"The GED took four months. I set a goal that I was going to be done by August. I got my diploma Aug. 21."
She continued on with college classes, already completing one semester and preparing to start a second semester May 20.
"My first semester I felt like giving up because it was so hard," she said. "But my kids said 'Don't!'"
She works part time at Applebee's while pursuing a degree in medical office administration.
Her husband, Chris Adams, was there in support.
"I'm proud of her," he said. "She stuck with it. She's done real good."
And Mrs. Adams' parents, Jim and Diane Boatwright, were also there to cheer on their daughter.
"I'm very proud. It's past due," said her father. "She's got that sense of accomplishment."
Kelsey Kearney, recipient of the Penny Nelson Memorial Scholarship, was at the other end of the spectrum, receiving her diploma a year early, at 17.
But the road there had many obstacles. Plagued with health problems since second grade, she has had numerous surgeries over the years, at times being home-schooled so she could continue her studies.
The adversity proved to help Ms. Kearney determine her future career -- as a nurse.
"I spent most of my life in hospitals and stuff has made me compassionate," she said. "I want to help people with their pain. I have a passion for taking care of people."
"She's had a lot of (health) problems and she has overcome so much," said her grandmother, Faye LaPean. "I'm very proud of her."
The night also evoked a sense of pride among those working at the college.
Tim Rose, an instructor in the GED program, said it is a "special feeling" witnessing the students earn that diploma.
"They work very hard," he said. "The whole key to getting the GED, it's not about how smart you are. It's about having confidence that you can do it, believing in yourself, knowing it's something you can achieve, and a lot of folks didn't believe that when they started.
"Fifty percent is doing the work. The other 50 percent is believing in yourself. All of these folks are an inspiration."
Dr. Kay Albertson, WCC president, continued the theme in her remarks to the graduates.
"You have made a very, very wise choice to finish your high school education," she said. "You took responsibility for your education, you mastered fundamental skills in English and math and science. But you have also shown to your family and friends, and most importantly to yourselves, what you are capable of."
She said the milestone would set the tone for the rest of their lives.
"I assure you that the rewards especially with higher education will be worth it," she said. "Continue to learn, continue to develop your talents and skills, and continue to become the best person that you can be."