JAY — At the Spruce Mountain Adult and Community Education Class of 2019 graduation speeches were given, scholarships awarded and program volunteers recognized.
Regional School Unit 73 Interim Superintendent Robert Webster said, “You’ve persevered. Continue to pursue the road less traveled, continue your outlook on life long learning. You can never truly finish an education. It’s okay to ask for help.”
Adult education director Robyn Raymond said, “More than three million adults lack a high school diploma or its equivalent in America. Full-time workers with a high school diploma earn almost $10,000 more per year. Adults without a diploma are twice as likely to live in poverty.
“As of 2018, 63% of jobs require education beyond high school. Nearly half of the workforce has a high school education or less.
“Education truly is the key to unlocking possibilities. Take that leap of faith. Discovering the authentic you is a lifetime work in progress.”
The keynote speaker was Roberto Mandje, a 2004 Summer Olympic runner representing Equatorial Guinea. He said his mother put his education front and center and moved them to the United States.
“I wouldn’t be the man I am without my mom,” he said. “She had been out of the workforce but knew the value of education. Instead of throwing in the towel, she threw herself in to things. She made sure there were no differences between me and my wealthiest classmates in Westchester County, New York.
“She took a lot of continuing education courses. I saw that work ethic early on. She kept rising, kept pushing. She was going to succeed.
“I had an easier path because of the foundation my mom laid for me.”
He added, “Running helped me assimilate to the culture. Sports is a universal language. I couldn’t control my size but I could control how hard I worked in the classroom.
“My classmates had lots of pressure put on them to succeed. My mom emphasized understanding the work and the rest will take care of itself.
“Maybe you haven’t followed the traditional route but it doesn’t matter. You’ve put in the hard work.”
Mandje said when the Olympic race didn’t go as planned in 2004 he pushed and finished the race even though he popped his ankle. He was devastated but quickly decided to look at it in a positive way.
“I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity. I’m still an Olympian. I put things in perspective.
“Every one here may not have followed the track that was laid out for you early on, but you’ve accomplished a big goal. You never know who you are inspiring along your own journey,” he said.
Kyah Andrewski and Carl Beaudette were recognized as new members of the National Adult Education Honor Society.
Raymond spoke of the workforce training programs.
“158,000 Mainers must earn credentials of completion by 2025 to fill Maine’s workforce needs. If every single high school and adult education graduate stayed in Maine, went to college or joined the workforce, we’d still have a shortfall.
“If we don’t work with local employers and create a pipeline of skillfull, educated and determined workforce, employers would be forced to leave. That’s not the solution we want, we’re working to solve it,” she said.
The certified medical assistant program is one of those programs. 12 people graduated in this, the second year of the program. A summer program has been added. All students from the program that have sat for national exams have passed.
College transition participants Isabelle Bryant, Ashley Gochenour and Hannah Pelletier received scholarships.
Among the 15 students receiving their HiSet and Adult Education Diploma was Ethan Pelletier, Hannah Pelletier’s son. The duo continued their educational journey together.
“Go forth. Move mountains. Be kind and make a difference,” Raymond said to conclude the ceremonies.