Graduates Get Fresh Start Through GED Program

by Diane VanDyke

Yolanda Sills gave the student address during the ceremony.

The Community Room at Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus in Pottstown overflowed with family and friends who applauded as 77 students earned their General Education Diplomas (GED) during the Fall GED Graduation ceremony on Oct. 24.

President Dr. Karen A. Stout congratulated the students, praising their tenacity and determination to accomplish this goal.

“You make some of the best role models of Montgomery County Community College because you have grit,” Dr. Stout said. “Grit is one of the most important non-cognitive skills necessary to achieve success. It means using your passion to accomplish your goal, in this case your GED. But, it doesn’t end tonight with commencement. Continue your education, so you will have access to getting a job that will provide a living wage. We are proud of your grit.”

Chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners Joshua D. Shapiro echoed her sentiments.

“You are here tonight because of your determination and commitment,” he said. “You found empowerment in yourself to accomplish this and it is not going to stop tonight. You have a brighter future ahead for what you have done and what you will continue to do.”

According to GED Program Coordinator /Instructor Raymond Ricketts, 735 students graduated since the program started in May 2006, and the graduation rate is 88 percent. The Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) funds the program, which is free to Montgomery County students, and is held at the College’s West Campus. The fee for out-of-county students is $100, which includes the GED test.

Graduating from the rigorous five-week program gives students the sense of accomplishment they need to want to continue their education, especially for the student speaker Yolanda Sills of Pottstown, a 32-year-old mother of four children, who tried three times before passing the final examination.

“Tomorrow, I will be a college student,” she said, since enrollment for the College’s Spring semester started on Oct. 25.  “I am going to pursue a Liberal Studies degree until I decide what I want to do.”

Many of the graduates will continue their education, like Paige Wasniewski, Pottstown, who will start classes at the College in January to pursue a career in sports medicine, and Nickia Ford-Oquendo, Pottstown, who is enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program. The Culinary Arts Institute is led by Director/Chef Christopher Tanner, who also served as the Keynote Speaker for the ceremony.

“There are three things that will help you to succeed,” he told the graduates. “Mentorship, passion and opportunity.” Tanner explained how mentors enabled him to shape his passion and achieve goals throughout his career. Now, he is serving as a mentor for the students in the Culinary Arts Program.

The evening ended with final congratulations from WIB Chairman Harvey Portner, who has attended every GED ceremony since the program started.

Seventy-seven students graduated from the College’s GED program this fall. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

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