AP NEWS

County graduates record number of Adult Education students

May 25, 2017 GMT

GRANITEVILLE — The Aiken County Public Schools Adult Education program graduated a record number of students Wednesday during commencement exercises.

More than 135 students in citizenship, English as a second language, diploma and GED programs walked across the stage in the auditorium at Midland Valley High in front of a standing-room-only crowd of family and friends who applauded and cheered their achievements.

“This is my 29th year in education, and I’ve been very blessed to have the success that I’ve had but more importantly to see the success that I’ve seen,” said Patrick Keating, the director of Adult Education. “I’ve always had a passion for at-risk students, and everybody has his or her individual path.

“These folks have overcome tremendous obstacles and hurdles that have been in their path and have never quit. They have continued to work to achieve their goals, and this is a wonderful step in that direction – a huge step in that direction.”

Speaking for the diploma graduates, Savannah Gantt said that “failure and success go together.”

“This means that setbacks are almost predictable when you choose to follow a difficult path, but such a path will ultimately bring the most happiness in the end,” she said. “The greatest potential for happiness comes from a success that is hard-earned. Congratulations and good luck to the class of 2017.”

Victor Gadsden spoke for the GED graduates, saying he always knew he wanted to graduate from high school and become successful but he came to believe he was “the bad child, the slow child, the unloved child.”

With help from his family, however, he got his first job and a car, and he met someone who encouraged him to go back to school and achieve more.

“So I stand here this evening in front of all of you to tell you: Never give up,” he said. “Even when things don’t go as planned, keep pushing forward to become a better you. I want to thank my family for their love and support. I want to thank them for not giving up on me. I did, and the best is yet to come.”

Lakesia Corley, who was surrounded by her family members from Edgefield and Johnston after the ceremony, said she came back to school to “finish what I started.”

“I did start, but I stopped so many times,” she said. “Now, I’ve completed it. Corley, who works as a certified nurse assistant, received her diploma, but she hasn’t completed her education. She also completed a phlebotomy program in March and passed the state board and will begin EKG training Saturday.

“I want to take care of my kids and do better financially and just work one job,” Corley said.

During the ceremony, Keating recognized students for their academic achievements. Cameran Birr had the highest GPA, and Lillie Boulware had the highest GED score.

Gerry Owens of Funding for Scholars presented Jessica Smith with a scholarship she can use to continue her education.

To end the ceremony, Aiken County School District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford told the graduates to be proud of their accomplishments.

“Tonight represents an outstanding achievement on your behalf. You’ve worked very hard to accomplish this goal, and you ought to be very, very proud of the work that you’ve done,” he said. “Don’t stop. Don’t stop. If you have a dream, go after it. Do everything your heart desires. Work hard. Be that individual who can speak from experience and not just opinion. There is a wide world that is waiting for you.”