The obstacles and challenges that kept them from earning a high school diploma were overcome Oct. 19 when members of the Charles County Adult Diploma Programs graduated.
The Lifelong Learning Center has 78 graduates this year, with 16 attending the ceremony at North Point High School in caps and gowns, cheered on by their parents, spouses, children, grandchildren and friends.
“Your road to get here was unique and often filled with lots of challenges,” Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill said, addressing the graduates. “You persevered when it would’ve been easy to quit. When you first got to the Lifelong Learning Center, you may have been nervous, you may have been anxious, you may even have been scared,” Hill said. “But you didn’t let that fear or anxiety stop you. You made the choice to do the hard thing. You made the choice to not let anything or anyone stand in your way.”
Full-time workers with a high school diploma earn an average $10,000 more a year than those without a diploma, said David McGloan, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. A mother’s education is the greatest determinant of her children’s academic future, he said. “You chose to be brave,” McGloan said. “You chose to change the course of your life.”
Mikki Cheral Donatien said getting her diploma is 23 years in the making. “I wouldn’t settle for less,” she said. “I’m so happy I pushed through and I was able to get my high school diploma.”
Maria Helms said she had been thinking of getting her diploma. “It’s been on my mind for a long time and I finally did it,” she said. She is continuing her education by taking courses toward an associate’s degree with a goal to major in early childhood education.
If her fellow graduates take the steps toward college, the College of Southern Maryland offered each member of the 38th annual graduation ceremony a $500 scholarship to CSM.
Elsa Ingles, the graduate speaker, found her way to the Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) in 1998 after she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Angola. She didn’t speak a word of English and came to the center to learn the new — and difficult — language. She began to take classes to get her high school diploma but quit when family and work took up all of her time. Ingles said the LLC staff never gave up on her. They sent her notes asking her to come back. Looking at her young son one day, Ingles grew determined to earn her diploma. She passed and completed her program in three months. “I am proud of me,” she said. “For the first time I looked in the mirror and I was proud of me.”
She encouraged the graduates to celebrate and continue on their journeys.
“Today is your day, your time to shine,” Ingles said. “Don’t let the light dim.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.