HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — About 115 post-secondary school graduates from James Rumsey Technical Institute heard Tina Combs recite her "baker's dozen tips for living a successful life" Friday evening.
Combs, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, read off a litany of advice from her list that began with, "Don't measure success by the size of your bank account...," followed by, "Never stop dreaming..., Believe in yourself..., Do what you love..., Live with humility..., Never stop learning...," plus seven more.
"Congratulations and be proud of yourself," Combs told the graduates, most of whom were adults ranging in age from 18 to middle age and beyond. "I wish you a lifetime of happiness and success."
All post-secondary classes run for 11 months.
The Licensed Practical Nurse class was the largest with 33 graduates, followed by Electromechanical Technology I, then, with 14 graduates each, in Automotive Technology and Heating Ventilation Air-Conditioning/Refrigeration.
Electromechanical Technology II finished the year with 11 graduates. Two courses had just one student each, others had three, four and nine.
Hailey Howard, 21, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., received her certificate in Office/Computer Technology. With graduation behind her, she said her next step is "working on getting a job."
Howard said her training in the last 11 months gave her the skills she needs to find work.
She can work as an administrative assistant, office manager or in customer service, said Dennis Chappell, her teacher.
"She just finished an internship at City Hospital, and she had very high marks," Chappell said.
"I can work in any office anywhere," said a confident Howard. She was on of four students in her class.
Several students walked the stage with infants in their arms.
Mike Wancket, 21, of Harpers Ferry, a single dad, held his daughter, Haidyn, 1, as he picked up a certificate for completing the first year of Electromechanical Technology.
Six-week-old Raegan Zombro was in her mother's arms when she was handed her LPN certificate.
About half of the LPN grads have found jobs, said Samantha Becicka, 22, of Inwood, W.Va., also a single mom.
She's looking for work.
"A lot of places want someone with experience. They're not interested in a new graduate," she said.
Eric McCoy, 38, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., worked in construction until the economy cost him his job. He shifted to his second choice, automotive technology.
"I already have a job at Hagerstown Honda," he said. Many of his fellow students are getting jobs at area automobile dealerships, he said. "They're working all over," he said.
"This is a great program, way more in depth that I ever thought it would be. I highly recommend it to anyone," he said.