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Job Development Center grads show determination

May 31, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - It took audience members only about an hour and a half Friday to glimpse into the lives, talents and personalities of the nine 1997 graduates of the Washington County Job Development Center.

Jessica and Danny were the academic aspirants, Diana just started living on her own, Adriano was the dancer, Jamie didn't let anything stop him from trying something new and Matt, well, he's a "character."

But what linked each of the nine graduates was their achievement despite physical and emotional obstacles and their collective step into the "adult world," which many of them called it.

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Board of Education members Robert Kline and Andrew Humphreys presented the certificates of graduation to Trenton Armagost, 21, of Hagerstown; Matthew Bowman, 21, of Williamsport; Diana Hull, 21, of Williamsport; Adriano Liz, 21, of Funkstown; Jamie Mann, 20, of Boonsboro; Sabrina Meihls, 17, of Hagerstown; Jessica Stine, 21, of Williamsport; Bessie Taylor, 21, of Hagerstown; and Daniel VanMeter, 20, of Williamsport.

Of the graduates, Stine is legally blind, Mann is physically disabled and Liz had to learn English as a second language.

"They are a determined group of young men and women," said Job Development Center Principal Gary Hollandsworth. "Their unifying quality is in their effort to overcome their challenges and their dedication to be the very best that they can be."

"There will be a lot of tears when this group leaves," said Barrett Cross, the center's head teacher.

VanMeter had welcomed the crowd of about 80 family members, friends and well-wishers at the beginning of the ceremony, promising that they will witness the graduates' "transformation from high school students to young adulthood."

"You inspire us," said the Rev. Helen Smith, a pastor at Benevola United Methodist Church who delivered the commencement address.

Many thanked the center's teachers and assistants for their help and support during this transformation.

"Here they found a place to be successful and people to support them," said Mary Staley, a center teacher who worked with the diploma program.

But Cross attributes the graduates' success to an overwhelming level of family support.

Stine said her family members had inspired her, but in a slightly different light. "The people in my family had quit school. I see what it did to them, and I wanted something better for myself," she said.

Stine, who is legally blind, was one of two graduates who earned her high school diploma, and she plans to take additional courses at Hagerstown Junior College. She hopes to become a disc jockey. "I love to talk," she said.

"I had faith in her," said Stine's grandmother, Janet Moats. "She doesn't quit. If she starts it, she finishes it."

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