Pulling on a black cap and gown, the participants of the Johnson City Adult Education GED program strolled into the 10-12 auditorium at Science Hill High School with new and renewed confidence Saturday, and the knowledge that their high school days were finally behind them.
Coming from many different walks of life, more than 200 students enrolled in the program passed the GED and 51 of those graduates graduated with honors.
John Holmes, a former student of Happy Valley High School, was one of the students walking away from the program with honors recognition.
Holmes said while he succeeded in the high school arena academically, a pressing family situation put his high school graduation on hold.
“My senior year my dad got very ill and he ... had businesses. He couldn’t run them anymore and I had a few younger siblings who had to eat, so I was working and going to school,” he said.
Finding work as a direct support staff at the Dawn of Hope, Holmes said receiving his GED will now allow him to further himself professionally. He is currently considering a career as a behavior analyst and hopes to attend East Tennessee State University.
The graduation was special for one mom and daughter pair as they were able to walk across the stage together.
Lori Cummings, mom to co-graduate Robin, said receiving her GED has been a dream of hers for a while.
“I’ve been trying to get my GED for at least 15 years,” she said. “When I got pregnant they wouldn’t allow you to go to school. Your alternative was school for bad kids or no school, so I dropped out of school.”
Lori said a lot of her personal fears, such as struggling in math, kept her from pursuing the program. But, wanting to set an example for her children, she enrolled.
Robin, now 17, dropped out of Unicoi County High School in the ninth grade after admitting she began running with the wrong crowd. Missing out on things such as football games with friends and the prom, she said her journey has been tough, but is happy to take the next step forward in life and encourages other wanting to drop out to stay in school.
Lori also said she wishes she could send her message to other women who have been in a similar situation to hers.
“If I could find a way to ... travel all over the country and tell people in my situation, that are moms, ‘You can do it. I did it,’ ” she said.
Two friends, Brandon Horvath and Johnny Sparks, were able to graduate together Saturday after serving time together in the Unicoi County jail.
Both men said they were thrilled to be given a second chance and to be on a successful path, which they attribute to Deputy Lyle Wilcox with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, for his guidance and support.
“The GEDs giving me hope to do better, to take on a lot of things that I didn’t think I could accomplish,” Horvath said.
Randy Trask, president and CEO of GED Testing Service out of Washington, said he was pleased to meet a lot of the graduates and to talk about their paths to seeking the GED.
“When you see the aspirations of what people have in mind next and you understand what they’ve overcome to get here, you just have no doubt that they’re going to accomplish everything that they’re setting out to now,” he said.