LEONARDTOWN, Md. – The faculty and staff of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) joined the families and friends of 25 Adult Education Program graduates Nov. 1 to celebrate the students for returning to school and earning their Maryland high school diploma.
The CSM Adult Education Program offers fundamental education courses that cover areas such as basic reading, writing, and mathematics – all of which prepare driven students to take the General Educational Development (GED) test or complete the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). CSM’s Adult Education Program additionally offers English as a second language classes and most classes offered by the CSM Adult Education Program are free because of grant funding by the Maryland Department of Labor, the US Department of Education, and local contributions.
“You are our heroes,” CSM President Dr. Yolanda Wilson told the students during the ceremony. “Returning to school to finish your education took a lot of faith, unwavering courage, and steadfast determination. You have exhibited strength of mind, strength of heart, and strength of will to carry on in spite of difficulties and obstacles. You have proven that in fact, you can do anything you put your minds to – and because of that, you have inspired us.”
Wilson assured the students that they are ready for whatever challenges lie ahead for them and vowed that CSM would continue to be a partner in the graduates’ educational journey by providing them with the support they need to capitalize on the momentum of the moment.
The president then surprised the students – and demonstrated CSM’s commitment to their future – by announcing that each student would receive a $500 scholarship to continue their education at CSM, generously provided by the CSM Foundation.
“It is our way to recognize and congratulate each of you for your hard work – and your courage – and it is our way to make true on our promise to walk your path with you,” she said.
Wilson also shared that graduate Lillian Salek, pictured left with NEDP Advisor/Assessor Trudy Rice, was the recipient of the $250 Dr. Richard Fleming Scholarship.The award was given to Salek, in addition to the $500 scholarship, to assist her in furthering her education at CSM. Fleming, a former CSM vice president, 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.
Echo Salisbury, a program specialist in the Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services at the Maryland Department of Labor, then took to the stage to offer her congratulations to the students.
“You have demonstrated that age is not a barrier to learning,” Salisbury said. “You’ve shown that life’s challenges, responsibilities, and obligations can be navigated successfully while pursuing your education. Your stories are a testament to your determination, and you serve as an inspiration to all of us here today.”
“In the face of change and challenges, you have proven that resolve and perseverance can lead to extraordinary achievements,” she continued. “You are living proof that it is never too late to chase your dreams, acquire new skills, and make a positive impact on your own life and the lives of others.”
CSM Director of Adult and Community Education Shaunda Holt thanked some of the many partners involved in making the Adult Education Program a reality, including Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties’ detention centers; Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties’ Judy Centers; Southern Maryland Workforce Development Board/Job Source; Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland Youth and Young Adult Services; Maryland’s American Job Centers; and The Jude House in Bel Alton.
GED graduate Tara Kettner took the mic as one of two students speakers to share her story with her fellow graduates and their guests. She said that after dropping out of high school she felt hopeless, and she initially struggled in her GED classes before finding the support she needed from her advisors.
“We worked through challenging times together, showing me that perseverance and dedication are key to overcoming obstacles,” she said. “It was a tough road, but with hard work and determination, I regained control over my life and am now doing what I love every day.”
She reminded her fellow students to keep working toward their dreams, even when it is challenging.
“You deserve to live the life you have worked so hard to achieve and enjoy all the rewards that come with it,” she said. “You can achieve great things, and I do not doubt that you will continue to do so.”
Along with receiving their diplomas, the graduates were honored with a personalized certificate acknowledging their accomplishment from U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer’s Deputy District Director, and CSM alum, Stefanie Barone, ‘06.
Below is the list of graduates who participated in the Fall 2023 Adult Education Program graduation ceremony*:
Kouakou De Souza
David Morgan, Jr.
Mina Butler Thomas
*Four graduates requested that their names not be publicized.
Photos from the event are available at https://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/aedfall2023.