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New London - A boisterous crowd of about 400 people greeted 145 adult education graduates with cheers, whistles and balloons Friday evening at New London High School.
"You have done it," New London Adult and Continuing Education Director Maria A. Pukas told the smiling graduates, who were dressed in green and gold robes and mortarboards. "We celebrate your accomplishments and your perseverance. You should be very proud."
The class of 2011, ranging in age from 17 to their 50s, was just slightly larger than last year's graduating group.
The assemblage included 42 people receiving New London High School credits, 85 getting their General Education Development designation and 18 earning their Montville High School diplomas.
One of the credit program graduates, class speaker Arthur Lee Carter, said he left school 32 years ago, subsequently injuring his hand and becoming disabled for a time. But Carter never accepted the idea he could no longer work, he said, figuring his only real handicap was the lack of a high school diploma.
"It hinders my job opportunities," he said. "I was standing still."
So, while working third shift at Mohegan Sun casino, Carter went back to school, catching only short naps before attending adult-education classes in the morning.
Carter said he found it hard to keep up, and he felt at times like dropping out again. But the friendly environment in the classes kept him going.
"My diploma will stick with me," he said. "My education will endure."
The other class speaker, Greysi Reyes, recounted how she had come to America from the Dominican Republic at the age of 14 without any ability to speak English. She entered ninth grade at New London High School but eventually dropped out and became pregnant.
Without childcare help, she couldn't go back to school right away. But through the adult-education program, she was able to get her GED a few years later and complete a certified nursing assistant course that led to a job at a local nursing home, Reyes said.
"I always regretted my decision to drop out of school," she said. "Education is the key to the future."
Keynote speaker Grace Torres de Martino, a pharmacist, said she could relate to the adult-education graduates; she faced similar hardships when she came to the United States from Puerto Rico. It took her some time to bridge the language barrier and, after taking English as a Second Language courses, get the opportunity to return to the profession she had built in her homeland, she said.
"Not being able to pronounce a word does not define me as a professional, much less as a human being," she said.
Recipients of diplomas from New London, Montville adult education programs:
New London High School
Shaun Michael Adams, Devon Lynn Ault, Cinthia Yocasta Aybar, Anthony Bones, Rose Ann Bushwack, Arthur Lee Carter, Brandy Lee Fanning, Stephanie Gayle Feliciano, Madelyn Fernandez, Giselle Gonzales, Kimber Lynn Gregory, Jamel C-Allah Hayslett, Courtney La'Shaun Howard, Shalondia Iyonna Jones, Theresa Ann Jones, Tricia Elizabeth Jones, Matthew Latif Abdual-Karim, Rami Sameh Kelada, Nikki Kelly, Angela Latronica, Shemere LeBlanc, Natasha Marie Martinez, Brandon Curtis McIntyre, Jon Erik Montanez, Barbara M. Morales, Kyle A. Norton, Ronald Herbert Percy, III, Marisa Elizabeth Perkins, Jasmin Gillens Pruett, Maria E. Ramirez, Lourdes L. Ramos, Adrian Reyes Jr., Cynthia Marie Rodriguez, José R. Rodriguez-Lorenzo, Jennifer Sánchez, Louis Seignious, Allana Ashley Stoute, Wokie Tina G. Torbor, Julio Torres, Marangellys Vázquez, Vanessa Mercedes Velez-Saavedra, Sean Wise
Venus Aragon, Jamie P. Bailey, Michaela M. Balkun, Brandy Bogan, Joshua Bublitz, Delano Callaway, Martha Y. Campos, April Chiasson, Steven Clark, Rita Cormier, Alex Cruz, Angel Cruz, Joseph Dart, Liliana DeLuna, Amanda Dionne, Kimberly Douchette, Evens Edouard, Zacharie Gagnon, Rachell Garcia, Sharlim Gonzalez, Cesar Guzman, Evelyn Guzman, Alexandra Hart, Taj M. Hemphill, Nelson P. Hengstler, Nikki Hudson, Derek J. Kalenkowitz, Sachiyo Kobayashi, Lashelle Koschmieder, Christopher Lavoie, Bryan LeBleue, Sean R. Levreault, Zaidamary Lucena-Martinez, Marissa J. Malone, David Marquis, Samantha Martinez, Willis Maynard, Dominique S. McDonald, Jonathan Meadows, Franklin P. Mendez, Timothy Montague, Milenid Montalvo, Xiomara Montes, Iris Moya-Lebron, Brandi Naholnik, Samantha Noel, Jason Orga, Patrick O'Rourke, Jeffrey Overton, Jessica L. Pendergast, Joseph Pinero, Charisce Polk, KareeAnne Porter, Kristen Raschello, Desiree Reichenbach, Danny Reyes, Greysi Reyes, Darnicia Robinson, Jesse Robinson, Erica Rodriguez, Rosemary Rodriguez, Olivia R. Romanofski, Jonathan Rosario, Luis Salazar, Alicia Santa Cruz, Lynda A. Scaplen, Emil G. Selent, Julia Serrano, Eduardo A. Silva, Gurmeet Singh, Travis B. Snodgrass, Joshua Souza, Dorothy Speer, Kayleigh Sweet-Trew, Anthony Swieneicki, Jhoan Tapia, Lydia Torres, William Vallejo, Jose Velazquez, Christopher Velez, Julie Walls, Kristine Waring, Natalee Weaver, Brian White.
Montville High School
Michael Steven Bernier, Andrew R. Bohlmann, Katelyn Marie Cullen, Lauren Marie Droesch, Brenna Ashley Edwards, Jonathan Michael Flatley, Angela M. Hary, Mark A. Ingves, Kelsey C. MacCracken, Michaela Alexis McLaughlin, Jossian Olmo, Derek Christopher Patton, Elaina Morgan Pierce, Heather N. Price, Cody James Schlais, Audra Marie Tefft, Michael J. Torres, Rebecca L. Westerberg.