The ceremony saw the distribution of diplomas to 93 adults who had successfully completed their high school education by earning a General Education Development (GED) diploma through Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
Coleen Brooks, director of the Adult Learning Center, told the crowd that the students were all great and that they made it tough on the teachers when it came down to awarding scholarships and achievement certificates.
“This was one of the most fun classes we had. Our theme this year is ‘what happens in adult ed stays in adult ed,’” Brooks said.
Brooks relayed the stats about the group of graduates, stating that 10 were recognized as honor graduates, mean-ing that that they scored a 3,000 or above on their GED exams.
During the commencement address, Georgia National Guard Sgt. Justin Baumgardner seemed to surprise some of the students in attendance off guard when he opened by saying that Coleen Brooks — who has worked with all the grads — helped him get on the right track when he dropped out of high school years ago.
“Coleen Brooks told me, ‘there’s other things you can do with your life. I challenge you to keep going,” he said.
Baumgarnder earned his GED in 1992, and a few months later became a member of the 108th Cavalry unit of the Georgia National Guard and was awarded a Bronze Star.
He also spoke about motivation and urged grads “keep the drive alive.”
“I was a very smart person, but I didn’t have the drive,” he explained. “Never give up on what you are doing. When I was in Iraq the days were long and hard and you had to push through it. Everything is possible if you want it. Keep the drive alive.”
GED achievers and graduates
Jerome “Jerry” Maddox, 54, said he managed to be a good student in high school, but dropped out to join the Navy. He worked in construction for 20 years and later found himself unemployed.
“The way the economy is, I thought ‘I’ve gotta go back,’ because without a degree you aren’t going to get a job,” Maddox said.
Turns out, school was a lot easier than he thought and he is now continuing to learn at GNTC and is taking con-struction management classes.
“I want to make something out of my life and I’ve always tried to learn something everyday,” Maddox said.
Martin Palmerian, 25, said he has struggled to get motivated to earn his GED, but did so after he lost his job.
“I just pushed myself. I’m the first one in my family to get a GED and it feels good,” he said.
Palmerian, who is originally from Mexico, said school has made him a better person and after earning his GED, he also became a U.S. citizen.
“This will give me more opportunities. It’s a good thing,” he said.
With help from GNTC’s GED program, Mildred Ballew, 47, overcame her fears and earned her GED degree. She is now in her first semester at GNTC on the path to becoming a teacher one day.
“I’m not going to stop with my education,” Ballew said. “It’s college and it’s rough, too.”
Jeff Burkhart, 50, said he credits his dad, who helped push him to go back to school.
“I wanted to do this and my dad always told me to go as far as you can,” Burkhart said. “I enjoyed it and it was like I had never been out of school.”