Advancing their lives

Adult learners earn diplomas

Students received their certificates of completion during the HFM BOCES Adult Literacy and Corrections Education High School Equivalency Graduation at HFM BOCES on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — Students who initiated their own success were celebrated during the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES High School Equivalency graduation on Wednesday.

“We are celebrating 53 adult learners who achieved their high school equivalency diploma in the past school year,” HFM BOCES Adult Literacy and Corrections Education Coordinator Laurie Bargstedt said Wednesday. “We are very happy to welcome the graduates who are able to be with us tonight, thank you for coming and thank you to all of you who are here to support them.”

While offering opening remarks to the gathered crowd of students, family, friends, faculty and administrators at HFM BOCES, Bargstedt commented on how proud she was of each student knowing personally how difficult it can be to earn a high school equivalency diploma.

“I also went back to school as an adult and I know the challenges that people face and I’m proud of you for persevering,” Bargstedt said. “Sometimes we need to stop and change course, but that’s OK. We can always get back on track to achieve goals that we set in front of us.”

“I say thank you to you for having the right attitude and contributing the right efforts to achieve your high school equivalency diplomas,” she continued. “You returned and you finished and that’s a great achievement.”

Michelle Harding receives her certificate of completion from HFM BOCES Adult Literacy and Corrections Education Coordinator Laurie Bargstedt during the High School Equivalency Graduation at HFM BOCES on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

Bargstedt then welcomed HFM BOCES Board of Education President Joanne Freeman, Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst and former Adult Literacy and Corrections Education graduate and current program teacher’s aide Kayla Hogabone to offer the new graduates a few words of encouragement and congratulations.

Freeman acknowledged the effort the adult learners put into continuing their education and encouraged each student to tap into the strength they exhibited while earning their high school equivalency diplomas to go on to pursue their next goals with the same determination.

“You are actually stronger than most students in high school,” Freeman said. “Nothing can stop you, because you’ve seen you can achieve when you dream. Good luck.”

Hohenforst reflected on the path that led the students to graduation from when they first decided to enter the adult education program to when they overcame their first setback or disappointment, developing a sense of grit they will carry on as they tackle their next achievements.

“You first decided ‘I’m going to travel on this road, I have a goal and I’m going to work towards achieving something that will help me,’ and we think that’s an awesome first step for anybody,” Hohenforst said. “There might have been a moment when you weren’t sure you were on the right path, when you might have had a disappointment, a time when something was very difficult that you weren’t sure you were going to be able to push through.”

Daniel Cook thanks HFM BOCES Adult Literacy and Corrections Staff for helping to achieve his goals during the High School Equivalency Graduation at HFM BOCES on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“You stayed with the program and I know that you did it, because you’re sitting here with us tonight, but we look back at some of our biggest struggles because that’s where we learned many of the things that stay with us for the rest of our lives,” she continued. “I am hoping that during your program you had moments during it where you said I am so glad I did this.”

Hogabone offered the students a piece of advice that she acquired after graduating from the adult education program herself and going on to now help administer the program to others.

“The most important part is to keep pushing,” Hogabone said. “Know where you want to go and continue to go until you get to that point.”

Before students were called to receive their certificates of completion, each new graduate took a moment to reflect and share their future plans with those in attendance.

Students thanked staff at the Amsterdam and Gloversville Literacy Zones and HFM BOCES along with friends and family for helping them get through the program, saying they are now looking forward to pursuing new opportunities.

Renee Hart receives her certificate of completion from HFM BOCES Adult Literacy and Corrections Education Coordinator Laurie Bargstedt during the High School Equivalency Graduation at HFM BOCES on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“It’s been a long journey and definitely been hard,” Zachary Bulkeley said. “I’m starting to explore my options and figuring out what’s out there.”

“It’s time for me to figure out what I’m passionate about,” Erika Ellithorpe said.

A number of students said they plan to pursue new career paths or to continue their education, expressing pride in what they have accomplished thus far.

“I’m just more proud of myself,” Renee Hart said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but there are more opportunities open to me now.”

Before sending the new graduates off, Bargstedt congratulated the students once more and expressed her confidence in each of their abilities.

Students received their certificates of completion during the HFM BOCES High School Equivalency Graduation on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“Please open the door and see possibilities in front of you, set your sights on new goals, pursue new dreams,” Bargstedt said. “It really is exciting to me to think about what’s in your futures.”

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