Thursday evening 116 students obtained their GEDs and took one more step toward completing their dreams.

Graduates Amanda Turner, Ben Jones and Michelle Collett were awarded Ann Messer scholarships, which gives them $500 to use at any college. Applicants had to turn in an application and essay.

“Going to college and getting a nursing degree is something that I know I will accomplish,” Turner wrote in her essay. “I will be the first person in my immediate family to get into college and I know I will make my family proud.”

Turner scored the highest of all the 2007 graduates with a 3,360 on the GED test.

Jones plans to get a degree in criminal justice and pursue his dreams of being a police officer.

“I have a baby on the way and I don’t want her to have to struggle like I did,” he wrote in his essay. “I want her to know that education is one of the most important things in her life. Also, I don’t want her to be the first in the family to attend college. I want to break the barrier for that.”

Collett is a work study student assigned to the literacy program by Somerset Community College after she received her GED.

“I have had the chance to experience different types of jobs, and also many different people which I have worked with,” she wrote in her essay. “During the time I worked as a caregiver was when I discovered what I wanted to do as my career goal.”

Collett enjoys being a caregiver because it allows her to give back to senior citizens “a piece” of what they have given her.

Wendell Lewis, a mortgage loan officer at American Mortgage Lenders, gave the student address.

“I would like to wish everyone the best of luck by obtaining our GED,” he said. “Your goals and opportunities are endless. Continue to work hard and you will achieve any goals that you set for yourself.”

Lewis plans on getting a real estate license now that he has obtained his GED.

Jerry Messer always wanted his GED because he had to quit school in 10th grade to help his father in his business.

“I started painting cars when I was 15 years old and I’ve been working ever since then and it’s always bothered me that I never graduated high school,” Messer said. “I’m 42. I still paint cars and I also work at Advanced Auto Parts. I got sick of the dirt and the chemicals. I wanted to get my education and go to college and get a job in the health field somehow, physical therapy, something helping people. I need a college degree to make the good money I make painting cars.

Tabatha Cox, who will turn 18 this week, wants to pursue a degree in nursing.

“When I was in high school, in 10th grade, I got pregnant with twins and dropped out of school. I have a set of twins who are 2 and I have a 4-month-old baby. I wanted to better my education so that I could get a good job to support them. I’m going to go to the Somerset Community College and I’m thinking about going into nursing.”

Dell Proffitt and Liddie Robbins attended the graduation to cheer on their friends, Steve Price and Anthony Martin.

“I’m proud of them,” Robbins said.

“They made a goal and stuck with it, Proffitt added.

Nicholas Price, 5, a student at Bush Elementary School, was in attendance to support his father, Steve Price.

“My dad worked really hard,” Nicholas said with a grin. “I work hard in school, too.”

Roger Schott, chairman of the Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy Council, welcomed the families and friends of the graduates. He told the graduates they obtained something important — an education.

“You have our admiration,” he said. “Thank you for your hard work. It is recognized by many people.”

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