SANFORD — With heads held high, the Central Carolina Community College Winter 2011 Adult High School/GED graduating class walked proudly into the large hall of the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
This was their night: a celebration of a major achievement and the launching of their future.
The crowd of family and friends rose to their feet as the graduating class entered, honoring their hard-won achievements — and punctuating the air with cheers and whistles as they spied their graduate in the procession. That just made the graduating class smile even bigger.
The students had worked hard for anywhere from a few months to a couple years to reach this night. Each could have told a story of why they never finished high school, from youthful shortsightedness to challenges such as having to work to help support their family. Some chose to complete their high school education at the college because they preferred an adult school learning environment.
Some of those graduating were still in their teens, while others were gray-haired, having left school many years before. It wasn’t hard then to get a good job in textiles or manufacturing without a diploma, but their jobs went overseas or just disappeared. All realized that more education meant a better future and all had made their way to the Adult Education programs offered by the college.
Karen Allen, the college’s Chatham County provost, addressed the graduating class. She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Allen urged the the graduating class to move forward, believing in their dreams.
Three students spoke at the event, representing the college’s Adult Education programs in the three counties the college serves: Sheri Pickens, of Chatham; Christine Mazzullo, of Harnett; and John Hinz, of Lee.
Pickens spoke of making bad choices when she was young and dropping out of school. Now 31 and with a young daughter, she said, “Going back to school was the best choice I ever made.” She earned her GED and plans to continue her education at the college, either in early childhood education or a medical field.
Mazzullo dropped out of high school at the age of 15. It took a few years for her to realize what a mistake she had made. With the encouragement of family, especially her sister, Angie Lamothe, she enrolled in the Adult Education program and earned her GED. She just turned 18 in December.
Graduation night was particularly sweet for her.
“My dad, Paul Mazzullo, passed away in December 2007, the day after my birthday,” she said. “The one thing he wanted me to do was get my high school education.”
She smiled and added, “I feel he knows now — I did it.”
Hinz dropped out of high school his senior year.
“I thought I was too old and too set in my ways to go back to school,” he said, “but the faculty were nothing but encouraging. Now, I want to continue my education in machining or in computers. I want to make my parents proud.”
More than 200 adults completed their studies for their high school or GED diplomas during the fall semester. Fifteen also completed the study and testing to receive their N.C. Career Readiness Certificate, which certifies their skill levels in applied reading, math, and locating information. The certificate is valuable in seeking employment or promotions because employers recognize these skills as essential in the workplace.
During the graduation exercises, five were recognized for earning a 94 or better grade point average in their high school studies or scoring 3000 or better on their GED examinations: Hinz; Andrew Brown, Brandy Spivey and Taylor Williamson, all of Chatham County; and William Koerner, of Harnett County.
The CCCC Foundation awarded scholarships to the college to Lashonda Wofford, of Chatham; Jessica Smith, of Harnett; and Nathan Romero, of Lee. Utarius Murchison Jr., of Chatham, received the W.B. Wicker Scholarship. All the graduates received a voucher for one free curriculum or continuing education class at the college to encourage them to continue their education.
For more information about Adult Education at Central Carolina Community College, visit the college’s web site, www.cccc.edu
, or call (919) 545-8028 in Chatham, (910) 814-8974 in Harnett, or (919) 777-7707 in Lee.