By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy commencement ceremony took place Tuesday night at the London Community Center. There were 184 General Equivalency Diplomas (GEDs) and six scholarships awarded to graduates.
Kathryn Hardman, executive director of Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy, said individuals usually seek to further their education for one of three reasons: for their family, specifically to set a good example for their children; for a new and better job; or to continue their education and go to college.
“People work on earning their diploma at varied speeds,” Hardman said. “People work on it anywhere from a month to a year, it really depends on how much they know coming in. It also depends on if they work and have a family. Someone who doesn’t work or have a family to take care of can spend a lot more time on it than someone working full time and raising a family.”
Rhaiannen Blanton, a single mother of four, faced tremendous adversity while trying to gain her diploma. The 27-year-old London resident was selected to be the student speaker during Tuesday’s commencement ceremony.
“I had to walk to the education center,” Blanton said. “I remember walking in the rain and being splashed by a car once.”
Despite the obstacles, Blanton knew she had to make a change in her life. If she wanted to provide for her children in the way she wanted to, she had to better herself.
“You can’t take care of four kids on a minimum wage job,” Blanton said. “I knew I had to do this for them.”
Having earned her GED, Blanton hopes to continue her educational career.
“Now that I have my GED, I can take better care of my kids, get a better job and go to college. This will motivate my kids to stay in school,” Blanton said. “I’m going to go to college to study nursing. Maybe I’ll become an RN. I have lots of options now.”
Another graduate, Michael Lewis, 25, moved from Cicero, Ill. to London because he wanted a fresh start. Part of that goal included earning his GED.
“It was a challenge sticking with it and actually completing it, but having my GED will help me get a better career. I want a better job,” Lewis said.
Lewis said earning his GED has made his family very proud. He wants to encourage others who are considering getting a GED to go for it, so that they, too, can have a better life.
Among the older graduates was Arnold Stevens, 55, of London. He said earning his GED was more of a personal challenge than anything else.
“I wanted to see if I could do it,” Stevens said. “Getting my GED should help me get a good job around here.”
Having been out of school for many years, Stevens said the toughest part was science and reading because those are skills he didn’t always use in his day-to-day life.
“People need to get their education,” Stevens said. “It helps in too many ways; it gives you self-confidence, you can get more job offers, it just opens a lot of doors for you.”
Scholarship winners recognized during the commencement ceremony included:
• Miranda Philpot, the Ann Messer Scholarship;
• Lauren Swartz, the Mary Jo Sutton Scholarship;
• Lewis Johnson, the Lori Acton Scholarship; and
• Memorie Dooley, Priscilla Philpot and Shane Roark, the Kathy Claiborne Scholarship.
The final GED test for the 2012 – 2013 program year will take place on June 27. The last day to take advantage of the free GED testing will be July 31, at which time the cost of testing will return to the normal rate of $60.
For more information on Adult Education and Literacy, including how to earn a GED, visit http://www.laureladulted.com or call 878-9134.