AE graduation honors the work of 23 local adults in CSCC event

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG christy.armstrong@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 5/19/17

Twenty-three adults from Bradley County and Polk counties have finally gotten to reap the rewards of many hours of hard work.

A commencement ceremony for the two counties’ Tennessee Department …

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AE graduation honors the work of 23 local adults in CSCC event

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Twenty-three adults from Bradley County and Polk counties have finally gotten to reap the rewards of many hours of hard work.

A commencement ceremony for the two counties’ Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Adult Education program graduates was held Thursday at Cleveland State Community College.

The graduates were celebrated for having earned their high school equivalency diplomas after taking either the HiSet or GED tests.

Leslie Travis, district coordinator for the Adult Education program, helped kick off the graduation with some statistics. She noted “over 500,000” adults in Tennessee currently lack high school diplomas.

“These people here are going to change that,” Travis said, gesturing to the graduates.

She also pointed out that each of the graduates worked toward their diplomas while juggling commitments like busy work and/or family lives.

During each Adult Education graduation, one graduate is recognized as the class’ “Unsung Hero.” This year, that local honor went to Crystal Furr-Herron.

Furr-Herron explained she is dyslexic, which made completing high school difficult, and family took precedence over school. With help from Adult Education teachers, she has over the past year earned her high school equivalency diploma while raising five kids.

She urged those who do not already have high school diplomas to take the plunge and participate in the Adult Education program, which offers classes to help adults prepare for the tests to receive their diplomas.

“If you don’t have your high school diploma, you can do it,” she said. “They will help you.” 

A “Student of the Year” was also named during the graduation, in lieu of a valedictorian. Travis said local Adult Education faculty chose a recipient who exemplifies “determination, perseverance and dedication.” 

This year’s “Student of the Year” was Tavi Renner. She briefly expressed her thanks to those who had helped her as she earned her diploma.

The graduates were also congratulated by Dr. Maxine Gernet, field representative for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

She passed along Fleischmann’s congratulations and encouraged the students to carry on the positive momentum they had started.

Graduates choosing to walk in this year’s Bradley County and Polk County Adult Education commencement were: Caleb Aleman, Hanssel Castillo, Ashlea Chadwick, Katlyn Cooper, Hilda Cruz, Leticia Espinoza, Terry Fraire, Crystal Furr-Herron, Elizabeth Gatlin, Danielle Gibby, Ashlyn Hampton, Rachel Johnson, Kenneth Maxwell, Ashley Mills, Megan Norton, Reanna Oliver, Madison Oxendine, Royce Parfait, Tavi Renner, Robert Talton, Uriah Thomas, Destany Wilson and Joseph Yanez.

The atmosphere of the ceremony was very celebratory, with each graduate receiving cheers and applause.

Many of the nontraditional graduates also received adoring cheers from their own children. One graduate’s daughter jumped up and down with excitement as her mother accepted her diploma. Another small girl repeatedly shouted, “Yay, Mommy!” as her heroine walked across the stage.

Furr-Heron said she was especially grateful all her children could attend. She added she hoped her accomplishment would help her children learn that “anything is possible.” 

Travis praised the efforts of the graduates, as well as the teachers who helped them.

During the 2015-16 fiscal year, 101 high school equivalency diplomas were awarded to adults in the Bradley and Polk counties. So far this fiscal year, which doesn’t end until June, 116 have been awarded.

“That is phenomenal,” said Travis.

Local adults wishing to earn their high school equivalency diplomas can take preparation classes and HiSet tests for free. The Bradley and Polk County program is facilitated by Tennessee College of Applied Technology - Athens, and classes are offered in Cleveland.

For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/workforce/article/about-ae or call the local Adult Education office at 423-473-8473.

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