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Adults receive high school diplomas

June 23, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Gray hairs peeked out from under some graduates' caps and a baby's burping cloth decorated one man's black-gowned shoulder at a ceremony for Hagerstown Community College's high school diploma recipients.

For many, graduation was long delayed - and eagerly anticipated.

"I've been wanting to go back," Nancy Spizzo, 53, of Myersville, Md., said as she celebrated her diploma Wednesday night outside of Kepler Theater.

Spizzo and more than 30 other men and women marked the completion of their high school requirements by collecting their diplomas.

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According to Sandra Blakeman, project director of adult education and literacy services, 81 students earned external or general equivalency diplomas this year.

Blakeman said students who have been out of a school a long time or left after just a few high school classes often need more work to earn their diplomas. About half received their diplomas through the external program, as Spizzo did.

The program allows them to apply real-world experience to their education, Blakeman said.

General-equivalency graduate Joann Armstrong, 19, of Hagerstown, learned in April she had passed the test.

She choked back tears as she recalled waiting to hear the news.

"I was overwhelmed with joy to know I was the first person in my family to get a diploma," Armstrong told hundreds of well-wishers during her commencement address.

Both Armstrong, who has a 4-year-old son, and graduate Judith Snyder-Ramsburg said they dropped out after becoming pregnant as high school students.

Snyder-Ramsburg told the audience she attempted the GED about eight years ago but failed.

She barely controlled tears as she thanked her family for their support. Her children, she said, helped her with math problems.

"Now, I don't have to feel ashamed or embarrassed when I fill out an application, or when someone asked me if I graduated," Snyder-Ramsburg said.

B. Jean Jones, of Hagerstown, said completing the external diploma program helped her land a job.

Jones, 53, said the achievement is a long time coming.

"My mother made me quit. She said a girl didn't need an education. She made my sister and me both quit. We didn't want to. She made us," Jones said.

Armstrong's success already has inspired another family member - her mother, Linda Armstrong.

Both women are interested in the health-care field. Joann Armstrong said she might return to HCC to study medical assisting, while Linda Armstrong, 37, of Williamsport, said she would like to go into nursing - once she gets her high school diploma.

"She did this thing that I'm going to do soon," Linda Armstrong said.

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