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115 graduate from Washington County adult education program

June 03, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Click here for more photos of this and other Tri-State area graduation ceremonies

HAGERSTOWN - He was running with a bad crowd. He got caught up in drugs, alcohol and even crime.

School wasn't a priority for the teenage Erik Boone, and he dropped out of high school at 16. Two decades later, with four children and a wife by his side, he earned his diploma.

Boone, 36, of Hagerstown, was one of 115 to graduate Sunday from the Adult Education and Literacy Services program -- a grant-funded program through Hagerstown Community College. Graduates received high school diplomas through the GED and external diploma program, which focuses on life skills, said Nettie Schubel, an instructional specialist.

"I have a family," said Boone, who was a speaker during the graduation ceremony at Hagerstown Community College. "I need to set an example for my family."

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Eugene Fischer, 65, of Hagerstown, dropped out of high school at 17 years old to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.

"I was rebellious," he said. "I wanted to do other things."

He worked for Fleetwood Travel Trailers for three years doing assembly and carpentry work before the plant closed last year. Then Fischer -- Sunday's oldest graduate -- started to look for work and realized he needed a high school diploma.

He's now hoping to change careers and possibly work with computers.

Tony Young, 33, of Hagerstown, said "the future belongs to the educated." That's not what he believed in the early 1990s when he dropped out of a New Jersey high school in ninth grade.

Young said he only wanted to hang out with his friends and wasn't interested in school at the time.

"Everything else was more important than education back then," he said. "I just wanted to hang out. But many of the people I was hanging out with are dead or in prison. And I'm here today ... here I am. I'm an example."

Young received his diploma Sunday and said he's hoping to finish his book, "Crying on the Street," and possibly start his own T-shirt business. He is now a manager at a carwash and detail center in Hagerstown.

Vincent Fertitta Sr., 60, of Hagerstown, said he could not have started his own business without his high school diploma. He received the diploma in March and started a home-inspection business.

Fertitta said he dropped out of high school in 10th grade because he "hated" school. It wasn't until later in life that the grandfather realized what he lost by not finishing high school. Each of his six children finished high school.

Fertitta finished the external diploma program in eight months and said this time he "loved" school.

Virginia Woods, 30, of Keedysville, said she had many reasons for going back for her high school diploma. Most importantly, though, was setting an example for her three children.

"I have kids," she said. "And I want them to see what I did."

She's now hoping to pursue a career in nursing and said she's even encouraging her husband, Larry Woods, to enroll in the adult education program.

Boone encouraged his fellow graduates and those who attended Sunday's ceremony to surround themselves with positive people who want them to succeed.

"Don't let success stop here," he said.

He challenged the crowd to continue their education and said that Sunday was about "proving to yourselves that it's never too late."

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