Adult grads set for a new start


When she was a teenager, education was not important to Joann Johnson.

"I hated school and I had a problem with authority," she said. After being kicked out of school in the ninth grade, Johnson, who said she had been abused and buried her pain in drugs and alcohol, ending up in jail and in an mental institution.

cont. from front page

Years later, after resolving to change her life, she enrolled in the Washington County Board of Education External Diploma program. She graduated Wednesday night during commencement ceremonies.

The graduation ceremony at South Hagerstown High School was held for participants of the Washington County Board of Education External Diploma, Evening High School and General Education Development programs.


In a speech to about 250 people, including family, friends and teachers of the graduates, Johnson said, "I realized I wanted more out of life - a career with a future, with promise."

The External Diploma program is geared toward adult participants like Johnson and is based on life skills and work experience, Linda Vestal, a counselor for the Adult Education Program, said.

Participants have weekly appointments with counselors and must perform a series of tasks, such as writing letters of application and resumes to receive their diplomas.

The Evening High School participants are those students who need extra credits to graduate and the GED program is for students 16 years and older who pass an assessment test, she said.

Of the Class of 2000's 98 eligible graduates, 28 attended the graduation ceremonies - eight members of the Evening High School, 14 from the External Diploma program and six from the GED program.

Robert J. Beard Jr., principal of the Alternative Education Programs, hosted the graduation. Special awards were presented by Hagerstown Community College and Hagerstown Business College.

Washington County Board of Education School Board member Doris Nipps thanked the graduates for their efforts and said she was proud of them.

She challenged the graduates to have the courage to follow their dreams and told them to consider commencement "not as an ending but a beginning to another part of your life."

External Diploma graduate Lisa Goodie, 35, of Hagerstown, had dropped out of high school in 11th grade.

Goodie said she was introverted and immature at the time and had difficulty understanding her studies.

"I remember my teacher throwing up his hands in disgust," she said. Dismayed, she "gave up on myself."

After leaving high school she enrolled in beauty school then worked for a few years in that field before deciding to go back to school.

A mother of three, Goodie said she wanted to be a good example to her children and be able to earn a living in another field.

"I want to show my children that learning is fun," she said.

Receiving her diploma has given her a sense of closure, she said.

"I feel so good. I really accomplished something," Goodie said.

Featured class speaker Nikita Baker wiped away tears as she spoke of the teenage impatience and rash behavior that led her to abandon her education two weeks before the end of her junior year.

After dropping out Baker said she lost confidence in herself and her future.

"One day I got fed up. I said 'get yourself together, you are too old to be doing nothing with your life,'" she said.

Baker enrolled in the External Degree program and said she pushed herself to achieve.

"I struggled throughout the whole process but I knew I could do it. I realized if I wanted it to happen I had to make it happen," she said.

The Herald-Mail Articles