Norwich Adult Education graduates overcome hardships to earn diplomas

Norwich Adult Education graduates, from left, Almouhallab Tmeem, Sherrie Thibodeau, and Maico St. Vil laugh in celebration after receiving their High School Credit Diplomas at the conclusion of the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Norwich Adult Education graduates, from left, Almouhallab Tmeem, Sherrie Thibodeau, and Maico St. Vil laugh in celebration after receiving their High School Credit Diplomas at the conclusion of the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Norwich — Kishorkumar Patel never finished school in his native India before moving to the United States 27 years ago, and now that he and his wife are raising three daughters in Norwich, that proved difficult.

“I couldn’t help my daughter with her homework,” Patel said shortly before walking onto the stage at the Jacqueline Owens Auditorium at Kelly Middle School on Thursday.

He joined 31 other High School Credit Diploma program graduates, three General Educational Development program graduates and one National External Diploma program graduate at the 43rd annual Norwich Adult Education graduation ceremony Thursday.

Along with helping the kids with their homework, Patel, 54, said he hopes obtaining a high school diploma after 18 months of study will help him find a good job. Patel suffers from severe diabetes that makes it difficult for him to stand for long periods of time. But he said the only jobs available for people without high school diplomas are standing jobs, such as cashiering, stocking, restaurant serving and dishwashing.

Patel also is taking care of his 84-year-old father — “a full-time job,” he said.

During the ceremony, Norwich Superintendent Abby Dolliver presented Patel with the Joseph B. Murphy Award for commitment to lifelong learning. She quoted a statement Patel submitted to his teachers: “Learning is so much fun. It makes me feel good every day.”

Graduate Maico St. Vil, 22, also took a different route to earn his high school diploma. St. Vil survived the devastating earthquake in his native Haiti in 2010, and moved to the United States three years ago with his father. He spent one year in the Norwich Adult Education English Language program and then moved over to the high school credit program.

“And I got it done!” St. Vil said.

He next hopes to go to college and possibly study criminal justice.

At Adult Education, the phrasing “life got in the way” is often used to describe the hardships  that interrupted many of the students' education — jobs, children, family health issues or even all of the above.

Two student speakers, Mayra Lopez-Polanco and Gina Demetrius, described some of those hardships and expressed thanks to both their families and their teachers for pushing them and supporting their academic success.

“We know seeing us here tonight is a joy for you,” Lopez-Polanco said to the families and friends in the audience.

Demetrius faced more than the usual obstacles to earn her high school diploma. The Haitian native lost all her high school records in the 2010 earthquake and spoke no English when she arrived in Norwich.

She moved to Norwich two years ago and, within two weeks of her arrival, enrolled in English classes at Norwich Adult Education. Her teachers encouraged her to enter the high school credit program at the same time.

“I was afraid because of my English,” she said.

But English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher Cheryl Egan said Demetrius earned nearly all As and Bs throughout her time at Adult Education, while also working full time and caring for her extended family in Norwich. Egan presented Demetrius with the Thomas J. Kelly Memorial Award for English learners.

“Gina loves school,” Egan said. “She has come to realize she is more courageous than she thought.”

The Norwich Adult Education Graduates for 2015 are:

High School Credit Diploma program, Norwich Board of Education Diploma — Skyla U. Brisbane, Marie A. Bronson, George A. Carr, Mary-Kate Caruso, Meggan R. Champagne, Allison B. Cherry, Trinlay Chopel, Nisa R. Cote, Gina C. Demetrius, Kelsey A. Doyon, Nelly E. Ferrer, Michael L. Fratianni, Joseph J. Gorman, Michael J. Gorman, D’Nelson Hilario, Christina Hughes, Kevlaine Jean-Baptiste, Champagne T. Keomoungkoun, Danielle A. Lamboy, Tania M. Lopez, Mayra I. Lopez-Polanco, Claire S. Marchand, Alexandra L. Marks, Elias Ospina, Kishorkumar R. Patel, Eleanor A. Perales, Maico St. Vil, Sherrie A. Thibodeau, Tyler D. Thompson, Almouhallab Y. Tmeem, Adrienne M. Velez and Raven N. Ventura

National External Diploma program, Norwich Board of Education Diploma — Angelica Almodovar

General Educational Development program, State of Connecticut Diploma — Nastashia Baez, Jessica Wendy Pangelinan and Rebecca Lynn Voss

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

Norwich Adult Education graduate Mayra Lopez-Polanco waves to her family as she walks forward to receive her High School Credit Diploma during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Norwich Adult Education graduate Mayra Lopez-Polanco waves to her family as she walks forward to receive her High School Credit Diploma during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Norwich Adult Education GED Graduate Nastashia Baez blows a kiss to her family during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Norwich Adult Education GED Graduate Nastashia Baez blows a kiss to her family during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises for Norwich Adult Education at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
The Norwich Adult Education Class of 2015 listen to presenters during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
The Norwich Adult Education Class of 2015 listen to presenters during the 43rd Annual Graduation Exercises at the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich, Thursday, May 28, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)

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