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Washington County Evening High School grads chose not to retreat

Students praised as a testament to what can be accomplished in the face of adversity

May 31, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Evening High School student Gaelle B. Hadjia-Kamga adjusts her cap Thursday night before commencement ceremony at Washington County Technical High School. Hadjia-Kamga gave one of the graduation addresses.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

When Gaelle B. Hadjia-Kamga moved to the United States after spending the first 11 years of her life in Cameroon, Africa, and began attending school in Montgomery County, Md., she felt left out as a sixth grader.

Hadjia-Kamga said she felt that way because she did not speak English.

“Can you remember the first time you were ever left out because you didn’t know anyone or anything?

That was the feeling I had all the time,” Hadjia-Kamga said.

Hadjia-Kamga not only ended up mastering English, after finishing her required course work at Washington County Evening High School, she was one of two student speakers during the school’s 24th annual commencement Thursday night.

Washington County Board of Education member Donna Brightman praised Hadjia-Kamga and other graduating students as a testament to what can be accomplished in the face of adversity.

“You could have walked away from education. You didn’t. You chose action instead of retreat,” Brightman said.

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Fifteen students graduated from the Evening High School program this year, with 12 participating in the 7 p.m. commencement held at Washington County Technical High School on Oak Ridge Drive.

Students attend evening high for a variety of reasons, Principal James Moore said.

Cosmetology students at Washington County Technical High take cosmetology classes all day when they are seniors and often go to evening high school to fulfill their academic requirements, Moore said.

Students at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts go to evening high for the same reason, he said.

Other students may take evening high school classes to get ahead so they can have time for internships, while some may attend after getting in trouble at other schools. And some do it because it gives them better flexibility when juggling the demands of a job, Moore said.

Graduate Jasmine P. Kennedy shared the student speaking segment of the ceremonies with Hadjia-Kamga. Kennedy recounted memories of her parents not being together and moving around a lot.

Kennedy said she lost contact with friends and struggled with school.

She proved Thursday night that she could do it, sharing with the crowd a fitting quote from TV comedian Milton Berle.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door,” Kennedy said.

Moore’s own daughter Allyson also graduated from evening high.

Moore said after the ceremony that Allyson was struggling with algebra and went to evening high to brush up on the course. She ended up staying at the school because she liked the experience.

Brightman said she knows that each of the students has a special talent “that the world needs.”

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