Adult Education program celebrates graduates
Published 12:01 am Thursday, May 14, 2015
As the area high schools prepare for their commencement ceremonies, another group of graduates made their way across the stage Tuesday evening, and for some, it was a journey a long time in the making.
That was especially true for 64-year-old Verna Vance, who was one of the 20 students who participated in the Adult Education Program graduation ceremony, having completed either their General Education Diploma (GED) or HiSet Diploma. The event was held at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
“In 1966, when I was 14 years old, I got married and quit school,” Vance said as she addressed her fellow graduates, friends and family gathered for the event. “I always wanted to get my GED, but I never had the time.”
Over the years, Vance said, she raised her family and worked in a variety of jobs. It wasn’t until after her husband passed away and her job at a nursing home was cut that Vance once again thought about returning to school.
“I was depressed and I was bored,” she said. “God sent me here. He led me where He wanted me to be.”
For three-and-a-half months, Vance worked hard, not only in her classes, but to make ends meet so she could continue her studies.
“I sold plasma for gas money to get to school,” she said. “I never missed a single class.”
Now, 49 years after she dropped out of school, Vance can call herself a graduate and she has a diploma to show for her hard work. Vance credited her family’s support for helping her have the strength to carry on through the program.
Family support was also a big factor for two of the program’s other graduates – sisters Leanna and Elizabeth “Betsy” Garland.
Both Leanna and Betsy Garland dropped out of high school during their senior years in the 1990s. Then, in 2013, the two decided to go back to school together.
“She came to me and said ‘Leanna, I have an idea,’ and here we went,” Leanna Garland said of her sister.
Being able to go through the program together helped the sisters achieve their goal.
“We encouraged each other,” Betsy Garland said.
“We helped watch each other’s kids so we could make it to class,” Leanna Garland added.
Since July 2013, more than 450 students have been served by the Adult Education Program for Carter and Johnson Counties, with more than 200 earning their diplomas, said Carol Russom, the program’s supervisor. Twenty of the program’s participants took part in Tuesday evening’s ceremony.
Jill Salyers, Field Director for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker delivered the commencement address.
“Walt Disney once said ‘Whether you think you can’t or you can, you are right,” Salyers told the graduates. “You are here today because you decided that you can. You opened this door for yourselves, no one did it for you, because you decided ‘I can.’”