LA PLATA, Md. – College of Southern Maryland (CSM) faculty and staff were joined by the friends and family of 24 Adult Education Program graduates Nov. 10 to celebrate the students for returning to school and earning their Maryland high school diplomas. The commencement festivities were held in person at the La Plata Campus.
CSM’s Adult Education Program provides basic education classes to adults that cover all areas of basic reading, writing and math to prepare students for the GED test or the National External Diploma Program. The program also offers English as a Second Language classes to provide basic English language and life skills instruction for adults whose native language is not English. The CSM Adult Education Program is supported through grant funding by the Maryland Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Education, and local funding. Because of this funding, most classes are free.
“You did it!” CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy said to the graduates during her commencement address. “I am thrilled to be the first to congratulate you this evening on achieving your diploma. For many of you, this is a moment that perhaps you thought was an impossible dream; but, yet, it was a dream that inspired you to stretch yourself. And, now look at you! You have achieved your dream, and even more, you have inspired others who have watched you, coached you, and are here to celebrate your success. On behalf of the college’s dedicated team and Adult Education staff, we are delighted to help make your dreams become your reality.”
Murphy went on to surprise the family of graduate Psalms Wilson, of Prince Frederick.
“Before we go any further in the program, I want to take a minute to recognize former CSM Vice President Dr. Richard Fleming, who before his retirement worked tirelessly with the college’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development Program to make the college the provider for the Adult Basic Education/General Education Diploma (GED) program in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties,” said Murphy, who explained that CSM expanded to offer the program in Charles County a few years ago. “Dr. Fleming was dedicated to the program and the students who were brave enough to return to school and complete their high school work – that he established a scholarship to be awarded to a Calvert County graduate. We are grateful to Dr. Fleming for his lasting gift to our students. And tonight, we are thrilled to announce that Psalms Wilson will be receiving $250 scholarship to continue her studies at CSM.”
The president then surprised all of the students when she announced that every one of them would be receiving a $500 scholarship to continue their education at CSM.
Referring to the graduates as ‘trailblazers,’ Maryland Department of Labor Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services Director and keynote speaker Terry R. Gilleland, Jr. praised the graduates for their accomplishments.
“You are here today because of your determination, your passion, your hard work,” said Gilleland said. “While you did the heavy lifting, there are key people in your lives that helped you along this path, including the great instructors here at CSM. And as you say thank you to those wonderful people, my request is that you pay it forward.
“Being here today, you’ve proven that anything is possible when you put your heart and mind to it,” he continued. “But it’s likely that you know someone who is without a high school diploma. Reach out and tell him or her that it is possible and be their source of inspiration – and that will make all the difference. For some people, that is what they need – someone in their corner for support. And you can do it because you have helped to pave the way for others.”
Gilleland reminded graduates and their families that life gives you moments that you cannot recapture. “And there is one thing you can never get back – time. You can lose a job and get another. You can lose money and make more. Yes, you can lose friends and meet others. But you never get back time.”
He then encouraged everyone to live their life to the fullest.
“Be a change agent and make a difference – but in the way you see fit. You see, no footprint you leave is too big or too small. Find your passion – that which gives you goose bumps, or that awesome feeling in your stomach when the roller coaster takes a steep drop – find your passion and live it each day. You do that and all of the hard work that led you to be here tonight will be worth it, and the closing chapter of your book – your road traveled in life – will not end with regret.”
Raylen Eggleston stepped up to the podium to be the class student speaker. The Lexington Park resident congratulated her fellow graduates and shared her pride in all of them.
“I have seen first-hand how challenging the road to success can be,” Eggleston said. “I was 17 with a 3.8 GPA when I had dropped out. I had a quarter of a school year left in my senior year. I was freshly married and I had just signed myself into a new high school. A few months went by and I was trying to balance the bills of adult life and the schoolwork from high school. I was looking for a job but I just couldn’t balance everything and we were already behind on rent so I chose to work instead of finishing school. There are plenty of times I regretted that decision but at the same point if it wasn’t for me going through all of that I would not be standing here today.”
Eggleston shared how nervous she was to sign up for the Adult Education Program, but when she aced her very first test, she got her confidence back. “I was so excited I scheduled all my other tests that day!” she laughed. “The next few weeks were just working and studying and taking tests. And once I passed all my tests I was set up with a transition specialist to talk to them about the best route to take. I was originally thinking of going into law but I decided that I believe psychology would better suit me. I still have many pieces to the puzzle to put together but that’s life. This is a bridge to your success.”
She also thanked CSM staff. “This program is a great tool that helps a lot of people,” she said. “People who originally did not see the light at the end of the tunnel start to see a slight glimmer as time goes on in this program. This program gives people a chance that they never thought they would have. The staff that are involved with this program are amazing; they truly care and want the best for every student they meet. I truly aspire to be like them. They are so caring and have the biggest hearts.”
Jason Reed, of Chesapeake Beach, agreed. “I can’t thank CSM enough for helping people who couldn’t see success in themselves,” Reed said.
Reed shared that he has been working in construction his whole life, and while acknowledging it is not a bad profession, it wasn’t his dream job. His dream career was to work on the trains at Amtrak – and he got that very job as soon as he got his high school diploma.
“My advice to anyone out there who may not have completed high school is to never give up,” Reed said. “I started this process in 2015 and I failed the math test three times, but CSM kept helping me and eventually I did it. Never, ever give up.”
For Stephanie Boothe, watching her daughter walk across the stage after receiving her high school diploma was emotional.
“I am just so proud she followed through,” she said of her daughter Ashely, who plans to pursue her degree with CSM as a full-time student next semester. “I love her so much and that her daughter – my granddaughter – Braelynn will see her walk across the stage means so much to all of us.”
Below is the list of graduates who participated in the Fall 2021 Adult Education Program Graduation Ceremony:
Ana Claros Alvarez
To view photos from the commencement event, visit https://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/aedgrad2021 (It may take several days following the ceremony for photos to appear.)