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Students get second chance to graduate

June 05, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Beneath Anson Hawkes' blue high school graduation cap was a head of pure white hair, 70 years worth of wrinkles and a smile that said it all.

After dropping out of high school as a ninth-grader in 1950 to join the service, Hawkes walked across a high school stage Wednesday night to receive the diploma he had given up to serve his country.

Washington County Public Schools Alternative Educational Programs graduated 133 students throughout the course of this year, but only 66 walked across North Hagerstown High School's auditorium stage Wednesday night to receive their high school diplomas, Robert J. Beard, Jr., coordinator of Alternative Educational Programs, said.

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Beard read part of Robert W. Service's poem, "The Quitter" to the students graduating from the Maryland Adult External Diploma Program, General Educational Development Program and the Evening High School.

"It's easy to cry that you're beaten-and die; It's easy to crawfish and crawl; But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight-Why that's the best game of all," he said.

Washington County Board of Education President Bernadette M. Wagner echoed Beard's praise of the students who took the nontraditional path toward high school graduation.

"You did it your own way and on your own terms," she said.

Dan Bock, assistant director of enrollment services at Hagerstown Community College, awarded Evening High School graduate Kendra Apple with a $500 scholarship to the college for demonstrating the qualities or traits necessary for school or life.

Daveeda Land, graduate of the GED program, told her fellow graduates that she was home-schooled and wanted to close the chapter of her high school career by getting her GED.

Land compared the graduating students sitting on the auditorium stage to frogs on their lily pads.

"Now, hop to the next level in your future," she said. "Don't rest on your lily pad."

Gail Morris, 33, of Hagers-town, doesn't plan to rest after receiving her diploma from the External Diploma Program.

Morris said that when she quit high school in ninth grade she had no one around to push her to go to school, but her story changed last year when she got tired of landing jobs that didn't pay enough money.

Now Morris plans to go on to HCC to get a degree in early childhood education.

Brittany Sill, 18, of Hagers-town, said she went to The Evening High School so she could graduate early. She graduated from the program in January.

Sill said she plans to remain in her position as office manager at Terry's Automotive Center in Boonsboro.

Hawkes, who said his diploma will ensure that he keeps his job, said he hopes the External Diploma Program stays alive.

"There are always going to be dropouts who need a second chance to get their diploma," he said.

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