Sean Boland said he remembers riding his bike to work and to classes at the Conway Adult Education Center in the rain, the heat and the cold weather.
“Sometimes I wondered, why am I doing this?” Boland said, but he persevered in the light of other obligations to pursue a high school diploma.
Boland’s resolve paid off after six years of fitting classes around a full-time job, and he told his story as student speaker at the Horry County Schools Adult Education graduation Thursday night.
“He would ride his bike for miles to class, but he wasn’t seeing roadblocks,” said Candi Beverly, his teacher with the Adult Education learning lab. “When you think of positive attitude, that’s Sean.”
About 40 graduates were recognized at the ceremony, held at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology auditorium, while 150 qualified for graduation, and more will qualify after General Educational Development (GED) testing is completed June 23.
Beverly said that rather than take the GED, which he could do in a shorter time frame, Boland was determined to get his high school diploma and put in all of the required coursework and seat time in class.
“Life is like a huge wave, and our attitude is our surfboard,” Boland said. “We all have to stay positive and keep trying to surf the next big wave.”
Virginia Simmons, director of Horry County Schools Adult and Community Education, said for most of her students, something has happened to interrupt their academics, and they are survivors.
“You’ve overcome a lot of obstacles,” Simmons told the graduates. “Each person here and each person who couldn’t make it tonight has a story to tell. You’ve come a long way, and sometimes on a very difficult path, but you did it.”
One of the night’s graduates was Rick Sanders, who attended Conway High School last year but missed hitting the math score on his exit exam by two points. Sanders said he took one class at Adult Ed to graduate, and he will attend HGTC in criminal justice so that he can become a game warden.
Sanders was steered toward Adult Ed by his mother, Kerre Anne Allen, who said received her GED in 2007. Allen said she had several surgeries growing up that had put her behind in school, and that she also worked in the family business at a young age.
“[Getting the GED] was just something I wanted to do to feel complete,” she said.
This year’s class was praised by Horry County Schools Superintendent Cindy Elsberry and several of the district’s board members. Five of the new graduates were surprised by scholarship announcements.
Maggie Allen was awarded the $1,000 HGTC Presidential Scholarship, which was presented by Rachel Mabry of Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Allen will study early childhood education.
Four students were awarded Fuller Education Foundation scholarships. The foundation, established in 2007 by Beverly and Glenn Fuller, recognizes the importance of community-spirited citizens and lifelong learners. It supports students who earn a GED through Horry County Schools Adult Education and enroll as first-year students at HGTC.
Winners were Di-Angelo Garrett, who won $2,000 to study electronics engineering technology; Jessica Paradise, who won $2,000 for 2012-13, and an additional $2,000 for 2013-14 to study criminal justice; James Stewart, who won $2,000 to study aviation maintenance; and Kelly Montague, who won $2,000 for the 2012-13 school year and an additional $2,000 for 2013-14 to study early childhood development.
Montague, the mother of four, moved to Horry County in 2003 from Arizona with her husband and their third child on the way. When her husband passed away in December 2009 after an illness, Montague said she was supported by friends and her church family, and encouraged to go back to school for her GED.
“It was very, very difficult, but I’m trying to provide a better life for my children,” said Montague, who plans to transfer to Coastal Carolina University and get a bachelor’s degree after her two years at HGTC. “I’m doing it for them.”
Simmons said it has been an exciting year for Adult Ed, especially at Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center, where students have come together and formed a student council. She said the adult students were interested in networking and having something that was for themselves, which resulted in several projects, including a memorial garden, which was dedicated at the center on Tuesday, and an event at Brookgreen Gardens, which was attended by more than 300 people.
Simmons said the Adult Ed staff focus on what is best for their students, and students like Cristina Kawase-Little praise teachers and administrators who continue to help students even after graduation.
As the graduation ceremony came to a close, Simmons told the audience she was saddened that so many graduates had said they could not participate in the ceremony because they couldn’t afford the cap and gown.
“This is my pledge,” Simmons told the audience. “Next year, we will work out something where caps and gowns are paid for. Everyone who works this hard deserves the chance for this recognition.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401.