Adult grads show unusual dedication, director says

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 PARIS — Some 30 area residents received their diplomas and GED certificates from the Oxford Hills-Buckfield adult education this week.

Eighteen of them marched in a graduation ceremony Thursday night at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

The graduates included a 20-year-old man and his grandfather, a woman who just learned she passed the GED exam the morning of the graduation, and a woman who was nine months pregnant and having contractions while she took her GED exams.

Each had their own success story to tell, Clyde Clark, director of the adult education program, said.

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Anthony Airington of Paris, who marched with his grandfather, Roger Saucier of Otisfield, said he attended Westbrook High School for only two days as a student when his mother was hit by a car and he was forced to withdraw from school to take care of her in 2007.

“I never went back,” he said. School officials told him that he had missed so much school that he needn’t bother to return, he said. “They said there was no reason to come back.”

It took him a while, but Airington decided he wanted more out of his life.

“I decided I should further my life and have more purpose and get a better job and make a better life for myself,” said Airington, who signed up for the GED study with his grandfather.

Anthony’s grandfather, 58, said he couldn’t be prouder of his grandson.

“I lost my job three years ago. I thought I would find something in not too long a time. A diploma wasn’t that important years ago to make a decent living. Wrong now, so the unemployment/career center put me on the road to graduation. It was not as bad as I had imagined it would be. After I got going, I got my grandson motivated also, and here we are,” he said.
“I am working at Maine Machine Products now and actually thank the day I lost my job those years ago,” he said.

The Courage to Grow Award was presented to Stacia Almohammed of Paris.

Clark said the Courage to Grow award is given to the student each year who has shown exemplary courage and dedication to their education, often overcoming obstacles that seem impossible.

Clark told the graduates and their families and friends that it is a difficult choice because it is not easy to come back to the academic life after being away for so long.

“Every one of these students have overcome many obstacles in order to be here tonight. All of them have shown great courage to grow.” he said.

In making the award, Clark said, “Stacia started with us in 1999 but moved out of state before she could complete her program. She came back to finish her diploma courses in earnest in the fall of 2007. Stacia is married and has two lovely children, and when she came back to earn her diploma, she was also working part time. She took and passed our CNA program and immediately started working full time.

“Because of those family and work commitments, she was not able to fulfill her diploma requirements then, but that didn’t stop her,” Clark said. “She came back again this past fall to satisfy those last few requirements and prepare for college. With two children in school and now working two jobs, many times being called in to work overtime, pursuing an academic program has not been easy. Nevertheless, as one of her teachers said, ‘Stacia has always taken her studies very seriously.’ Stacia initially planned to continue with her nursing career, but she recently decided to shift gears just a little and pursue a degree and career in social work, especially working with immigrants.”

Principal Ted Moccia gave the commencement address. Superintendent Rick Colpitts and Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors Chairman Ron Kugell presented the diplomas.

Clark said there are 185 students in the diploma/GED program this year, and enrollment figures in all the adult education programs have been climbing for the past several years.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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