Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

July 1, 2014

A much anticipated graduation

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — BROOKVILLE – As “Pomp and Circumstance” played on a sound system and about 50 attendees shushed, on June 26, 10 casually dressed adults filed into Room 203 of the Franklin County Government Center, which was adorned with flowering plants for the occasion when they would be declared high school graduates.

Polly Brown, Cedar Grove, one of two Adult Basic Education instructors at the Brookville site and the River Valley Resources adult literacy coordinator for Franklin County, explained the High School Equivalency (HSE) test, formerly called the GED (General Educational Development), “is changing for the teachers and the students. The state raised the bar very, very high.”

After students study reading, English, social studies, science and math, they undergo seven hours of testing over two days.

“What a neat group of people,” said Brown, beaming. “I loved doing it.”

The graduates were called up to the podium one by one so the instructors could talk about their efforts. Judy Siebert, Brookville, said she was “so impressed” when Versie and Marcus Holland, Laurel, showed up for classes together. She told the woman, “What a good role model to bring your son with you.” The teacher recalled, “We were studying on days off and Fridays.” The mother also fulfilled her goal of getting a Certified Nursing Assistant designation after classes in Connersville.

Siebert reported when Ashley Robinson, Brookville, was 17 and a new mother, “it was too much to finish school.” With her husband a servicemember in the Middle East, Robinson would drive to Batesville so her mom could baby-sit, work at Wendy’s here, then drive to Brookville for class and back to Batesville to pick up the baby. “She only needed three hours of classwork to get the diploma,” but had a lot of homework.

Teresa Blum told her teacher, “A job is being held for me, but I have to get this first.” She was in the classroom for 100 hours “and she worked diligently.”

Lurenda Stenger, Brookville, “came with great goals in mind,” according to Brown. “You know the winter we had. There were days I didn’t want to come in, but I knew she would be there.”

Aaron Durham, Laurel, who took the ICE (Indiana Career Explorer), “was very quiet, but very focused.”

Johnathan Charles, Brookville, told Brown, “‘I’ve been out of school 14 years, but I’m going to do this!’ He demanded a great, big, comfortable chair.” Charles confessed he made Stephen Fritts, his best friend since fourth grade, attend as well. “It was self-esteem for each of us.” A relative noted Charles also got tutoring from his 13-year-old niece.

Heather Cummins, Brookville, had perfect attendance. “She even came on her birthday!”

Philip Banks, Brookville, who worked all day, then attended class at night, “has seen a huge improvement in reading.”

Brown concluded, “This is an amazing group of men and women who all can take away that commitment to a goal.”

Speaker Ralph Profitt, Brookville, had instant rapport with the group. “I’m from an Appalachian family that didn’t have much of an opportunity to complete their education. I was the first one to ever go through grade school and saw there was so much I didn’t know.”

He earned a college degree during “evenings, summers, long nights and long days” as he worked and started to raise a family. The retiree told the graduates, “You’re like me. You’ve shown that you can do it.”

Profitt talked about Walt Disney, who “always encouraged others to follow their dreams until they too became a reality. How do we go about acquiring the mysterious power behind the mystical force we call dreams? It seems to begin by requiring a giant leap of faith … an ability to look ahead … it’s some inward power that kick-starts our engines and gets us started on the journey of our own hopes and dreams.”

“You can be whatever you choose to be,” he said emphatically, “and it all begins right now with your own personal look at you, peering into your soul and honestly appraising and evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses” and deciding how to enhance skills.

Profitt urged, “Let your energy match your ambitions .... Set your sights on something and go after it. And don’t let anybody or anything stop you.”

“You are, from this moment on, the sum total of all your choices and decisions. You call the shots.”

After the ceremony, Lurenda Stenger, Brookville, who has worked at The Waters of Batesville for close to two months, said she was overwhelmed with emotions.

Charles observed earning the equivalency diploma “has been a long time coming. Determination is what got me this far ... I’m glad of where I’m at.” After seeing a sign in a service station about earning an automotive service excellence certificate, he’s mulling more education over.

Excited was the word Aaron Durham, Laurel, used to describe the milestone. When asked about future plans, he admitted, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought that far.” Stephen Fritts, Brookville, was thinking about a career in computer security.

Ashley Robinson, Brookville, felt happy. “I want to be a psychologist,” said Robinson, who recently quit working at Wendy’s, Batesville, due to problems finding child care. When her husband is discharged from the U.S. Army in February, they hope to move to a college town.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

High School Equivalency details • Literacy coordinator Polly Brown can be reached by texting or calling 765-309-2001; or e-mailing polly@rivervalleyresources.com. • The Franklin County Education Center, overseen by the nonprofit River Valley Resources, Madison, is located at 1250 Franklin Ave., Brookville.