Speakers highlight VRABE graduation

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Region - posted Fri., Jun. 17, 2011
Friends (back row, l-r) Brianna Gonzalez, Barb Trombley Rix, James Parsons, (front row, l to r) Megan Paradise, Ashley Veins and Ronda Clark get excited just before getting in line to enter the auditorium at Rockville High School for the Vernon Regional Adult Based Education graduation on June 16. Photos by Steve Smith.
Friends (back row, l-r) Brianna Gonzalez, Barb Trombley Rix, James Parsons, (front row, l to r) Megan Paradise, Ashley Veins and Ronda Clark get excited just before getting in line to enter the auditorium at Rockville High School for the Vernon Regional Adult Based Education graduation on June 16. Photos by Steve Smith.

John Thomas Nevin had a relatively simple goal – to graduate before his daughter does.

“Daddy won,” he said, as he took the podium at the commencement ceremony for the Vernon Regional Adult Based Education program in the Rockville High School auditorium on June 16.

As the 99 graduates of the program prepared to toss their mortarboards into the air, some of them, like Nevin, had stories to share of how and why they chose to take the steps necessary to get their diplomas.

Nevin said his “arduous journey” began 38 years prior, when he decided getting a high school diploma “just wasn't that important.”

“I was wrong,” Nevin said, adding that he had been telling people that he hadn't given up on high school, but rather that he was in the 43rd grade.

“Happily, tonight, the burden for me is going to come to an end,” he said.

Angelica Rivera said it warms her heart to see her fellow graduates on the stage with her.

Rivera said she stayed focused on her success, but that she hasn't yet reached her goals.

“I realize that as I graduate, this is only the first step,” she said. “True success is not limited to one experience. It is achieved, again and again, as you encounter challenges in your life.”

Joanna Santiago said she was discouraged for years about getting her diploma, and was afraid it was beyond her reach, but becoming a mother changed her mind.

“After having my two children, I determined it was absolutely necessary,” she said, “not only for me, but for them as well.”

Santiago said the National External Diploma Program (which is offered through VRABE) was “excellent” and “dedicated to ensuring that you succeed.”

“I can honestly say the staff believed in me and my abilities,” she said, “even when I didn't believe in myself. There were times when I wanted to give up, overwhelmed with my daily life, but I somehow found inner strength and perseverance to continue on.”

Janell Smith said she and her classmates all came from different places, but had the same goal.

“All of us have a story to tell, and many of us came looking for a second chance,” she said, adding the VRABE's welcoming environment made it easier.

“I've learned so much and showed myself that I can succeed at whatever I put my mind to,” Smith said. “This program has prepared me for the next step in life, which is to attend college in the fall.”

Nevin said the success for him would not be possible without the staff of VRABE educators, who exemplify the spirit of the program and truly care about the students and their varied needs. Nevin also offered a challenge to people like him, who have delayed getting their diploma, saying that VRABE makes it possible.

“If you need a diploma, come get one,” he said. “If you know somebody who needs one, have them come down. You will not be judged. You won't be embarrassed.”


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