At GED ceremony, teachers tell stories of students turning their lives around

Friday, April 9, 2010
Graduates of the Cape Girardeau Adult Education and Literacy program begin graduation ceremonies with the processional Thursday night at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. (Fred Lynch)

Fighting back tears, teachers with the Cape Girardeau Adult Education and Literacy program told the triumphant stories of their students during the annual GED graduation ceremony Thursday.

More than 300 people packed into the auditorium at the Career and Technology Center to celebrate the achievements of more than 70 students from four Southeast Missouri counties who received diplomas this year.

Among those were four women who lost jobs they'd worked in for years when high-end men's clothing manufacturer Thorngate Ltd. closed last year in Cape Girardeau.

"She took what could have been a devastating job loss and turned it into a career opportunity," instructor Cathy Matthews said of GED graduate Patricia Dietiker.

Since completing her GED, Dietiker has enrolled in classes to work toward a medical office specialist degree and hopes to find a new career in the health care field.

Former Thorngate employee Martha Craft enrolled in horticulture classes after earning her GED.

As graduates took the stage, their instructors told stories of students who had overcome many obstacles in an effort to further their education.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Lydia Kight could have taken the GED in her native language, Spanish, but chose to take the exam in English. Her formal education only went through the sixth grade, and she'd tried to earn her GED multiple times without success since moving to the United States nearly 20 years ago. Now Kight is enrolled at Mineral Area College, where she plans to complete the physical therapy assistant program.

Earning a GED was a team effort for parents TyAnn Holter and Dalton Story, who took turns watching their 5-month-old baby while the other attended class or studied. Both of them received diplomas Thursday night.

Nine students receiving GEDs Thursday were part of the Scholars at Work program, a Missouri Department of Economic initiative funded through the federal Work Force Investment Act of 1998. In this program at-risk students ages 17 through 21 are paid minimum wage to attend classes to prepare for their GED exam. The program operates from the sixth floor of Marquette Towers in downtown Cape Girardeau and is jokingly called "GED on Broadway" by staff and students.

For some, completing their GED secured their entry into college, but others are headed straight to the workplace. Joe Medley, for example, is employed by a barge company that wouldn't hire him full time until he completed his GED.

"It takes a forward-looking school district to support adult education," said Becky Atwood, Adult Education and Literacy coordinator for the Cape Girardeau School District. "This district believes that education takes a lifetime. It isn't just for K through 12."

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent addresses:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau

338 Broadway, Cape Girardeau

Map of pertinent addresses

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