Photos by Nyia Curtis.
A single mom and east Ugandan refugee who wanted to beat the oldest of her six children to a high school diploma; a high school dropout who became a GED® dropout because of math; a former AP Honors student who got sidetracked; and a 19-year-old who left high school to support her family.
These are just four stories from the 42 graduates walking in the 2018 Anne Arundel County High School Diploma Student Recognition Ceremony at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College’s campus in Arnold. There are a total of 153 graduates this year.
“The ceremony is so impactful,” said Rena Burkowsky, basic skills program manager. “Many of our students thought they would never graduate or have the opportunity to walk across the stage in cap and gown. Earning their diploma is life changing, and being able to celebrate with family and friends is incredibly important.”
The degrees are earned through AACC’s School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development Adult Basic Skills Program or Anne Arundel County Public Schools National External Diploma Program (NEDP). Individuals who pass the GED® exam or complete the NEDP earn a Maryland High School Diploma issued by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Many students graduating were enrolled in AACC’s Adult Basic Skills classes throughout the county, including Ordnance Road Correctional Center.
“Some of our students face challenges, making it hard to get to class and stay in the program,” Burkowsky said. “When they earn their diploma, it is due to a lot of hard work and a tremendous amount of perseverance. It is truly amazing.”
Including this year’s graduating class, 3,022 students have passed the GED® exam since July 1998 after attending classes with the assistance of AACC’s GED® Program.
The keynote speaker for the event is Sergio Polanco, a native of Guatemala, who is founder and editor-in-chief of Conexiones Diversity Bilingual Magazine, a publication in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which publishes in Spanish, English, Romanian and Chinese. He is also the co-host of Bienvenidos TV, a Spanish-language television program on the Anne Arundel County television station. Polanco attended college in Guatemala and passed the GED® exam shortly after arriving in the country in 1995.