The members of the RSU 40 Adult Education Class of 2019 celebrated their triumph over adversity during a graduation ceremony at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro on Wednesday, May 29.
RSU 40 Adult Education Director Kayla Sikora welcomed the six students in attendance to the MVHS auditorium and congratulated all 11 students who completed the program.
“You all have overcome many obstacles and responded with strength, hard work, and determination,” Sikora said.
The six graduates in attendance were Brent Callahan, Nickolas Griffin, Megan Jacobs, Antonio Seccareccio, Katie Thomas, and Shane Woods.
Thomas spoke after the ceremony about the opportunity the program provided her to prepare for the next chapter in her life.
“I’m so happy I got to meet all these amazing people,” Thomas said.
Thomas wants to become a guidance counselor and plans to attend Southern Maine Community College.
For Thomas, the hardest part of the program was going to class, but the people she met pushed her along.
“They were all really helpful. They worked with me and encouraged me to keep going,” Thomas said.
RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan, who, with Sikora, presented the graduates with their diplomas, expressed his admiration for the graduates.
“I’m proud of you – proud of you for proving to yourselves you can do this – and I wish you continued success,” Nolan said.
As diplomas were awarded, Sikora talked about each graduate. She said Callahan and Thomas are in a college transitions program and Seccareccio and Woods showed great determination to complete the program.
Sikora also spoke about Griffin and Jacobs, explaining how Griffin never complained and had a great support system, and how Jacobs gave it her all and was fast-tracked through the program.
The evening’s keynote speaker was Harolyn York, student achievement center teacher at MVHS.
York urged the class of 2019 to savor the moment.
“This is not just a celebration, but a major accomplishment in your life,” York said.
During her commencement speech, York spoke of the similarities between her and the graduates. She took a nontraditional path, commuting to college at the University of Maine at Augusta and going back to school, as an adult, to become a teacher.
“It’s not so much how you get somewhere in life, it’s that you get there,” York said.
York congratulated the class and said the first step is always the hardest.
“It’s not easy going to school at night, maybe working as well, and now you have a diploma and that will matter for your entire life,” York said.
York closed by saying she tries to do one small good deed a day.
“I challenge you to do one small act of kindness on a daily basis,” York said, urging the students to start small. She said the acts don’t have be earth-shattering to give them a happy heart.
“Life is sometimes harsh and not always fun or kind, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be all those things,” York said.
In closing, York implored the graduates to seek out people who will support, guide, and listen to them.
“Be nontraditional. People get to different places in life different ways. It doesn’t make it any less challenging, it’s just a different route. May you find peace and happiness in your life. I’m so proud of you all. Congratulations,” York said.
Speaking after the ceremony, Sikora said the district’s high school completion program runs four days a week, Monday-Thursday, from 3-7 p.m. at MVHS.
The program includes the HiSET exam, a five-part test students must pass to obtain a high school equivalency credential. The HiSET replaced the GED test in Maine.
Sikora described the graduation ceremony as emotional.
“A lot of the students have overcome so much and it is such a rewarding thing to see them succeed,” Sikora said.
Sikora said her favorite part of working in adult education is seeing the growth of her students.
“My favorite part is seeing their confidence grow, seeing the students realize they are special and that they are worth it,” Sikora said.