SULLIVAN — When Michele Springer received her high school diploma last week, the 47-year-old’s parents and her children were there to applaud her efforts, which culminated in a Wednesday evening ceremony at Sumner Memorial High School.
Through RSU 24 Adult Education, the Sullivan resident was among nine white-gown-clad high school graduates. More than three dozen other students were honored for completing certification programs designed to prepare students for college or for health care-related careers.
Springer said her mother, who is currently battling cancer, had been “waiting a long time” to see her graduate from high school. She credited her adult education teachers for pushing her outside her comfort zone. In a class taught by Phil Wormuth, she learned about spoken-word poetry and participated in an open-mic session.
Her teachers appreciated her hard work. Wormuth and math teacher Trudy Martin bestowed her with a special award marking her persistence, and she was one of 10 students inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society (NAEHS), which selects students based on attendance, attitude and work ethic.
As she re-enters the workforce after years as a homemaker, Springer is interested in becoming a substitute teacher, or maybe working as an educational technician.
“It’s never too late to get your high school diploma,” she said.
Another high school graduate was 17-year-old Kiki Morrill. Public school wasn’t a good fit for Kiki, and she stopped attending in sixth grade. She learned at home, and began participating in show choir and chorus a few years ago at Sumner.
“This year, I realized it was senior year and I should probably graduate high school somehow,” she said.
After studying with help from adult education teachers, Kiki received one of the top scores on the HiSET exam, which the state uses to measure high school equivalency. At graduation, Kiki donned the green shoes that she wore in the role of Tinker Bell in Sumner Show Choir’s spring production of “Peter Pan.” She looks forward to attending Southern Maine Community College this fall, where she plans to study liberal arts.
Adult Education Director Ander Thébaud commended students for taking the time to further their educations despite obstacles.
“One of the challenges for adult learners is that people have so many commitments in their lives — going to school can compete with time for family, work, paying bills, friends, community, other passions. There are hundreds of things,” she said.
RSU 24 Superintendent Michael Eastman likewise applauded Adult Education teachers, calling them “the unsung heroes in our educational system.”
Wednesday’s ceremony also recognized students who earned certifications through five different medical-related courses. Thébaud noted that health care is “Maine’s largest growth industry.”
Lorna Konyak was among the students who completed the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant Program. She was also honored with NAEHS membership. She had been looking to enter the health care field after working at an animal shelter for many years, but found that the online billing and coding classes she took weren’t enough.
“I thought I needed more of an education,” she said.
As part of her adult ed course of study, Konyak shadowed at the Harrington Family Health Center, where she hopes to find a job by summer’s end.
An additional seven students completed the RSU 24 College Transitions program. Among them was Brian Campbell. Campbell is a Navy veteran who has been working as a janitor at the Hancock Grammar School, but he said, “I found myself wanting more.”
After completing the 14-week program, he hopes to enroll at Eastern Maine Community College and become an electrician. While it wasn’t always easy to fit school alongside his work and family life, Campbell — likewise an NAEHS inductee — credited the RSU 24 Adult Education teachers for providing him with an enriching educational experience.
“I just want to thank the staff, publicly if I can,” he said. “They’ve really opened my eyes.”