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Graduates from the Milpitas Adult Education program proudly moved their tassels from the right to left side of their cap after they were announced as the Class of 2017 on May 31, a seconds-long motion that captured what for some seemed an almost insurmountable goal after years of struggle.
“Adult education is about transformation and lifelong learning,” Giuliana Brahim, Assistant Principal of Milpitas Adult Education, said in welcoming attendees to the ceremony. “Everyone does not follow a straight path, a traditional educational path. For many, life circumstances, peer pressure, and other choices get in the way of completing school. Some immigrant adults have faced other challenges that get in the way of their education. But that need not be the end. Adult education provides people opportunity to complete that education and keep on learning. Today, you have seized this opportunity. Congratulations.”
Approximately 16 students participated in the cap-and-gown ceremony that evening in the Milpitas High School theater. There were close to 100 students total who completed secondary graduation requirements from the Milpitas program -- which includes a site at the District Office and classes at Elmwood Correctional Facility -- either by receiving their high school diploma through 190 credit hours of academic study in the independent study program or successfully passing the General Education Development (GED) test or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET).
“We recognize our social responsibility to embrace adult education for all that wish to improve and enrich their lives,” Board President Daniel Bobay said during his commencement speech. “Adult Education is our duty and responsibility, and the fruits of that labor sits over here today and those we celebrate who are absent. You have graduated this level, and I encourage you to continue your education, keep learning new things. Go and earn your AA degree, your bachelor’s degree, even your master’s degree, or your doctorate.”
Dennise Ponce from the GED Program; Angelika Regine Sanchez from the Independent Studies program; and Mackey Phillips from the HiSET program were among this year’s graduating class. They each shared their personal stories of struggle and the dreams and people that helped them overcome difficult obstacles in order to reach such an important next step in their life.
For Phillips, it was teachers Denise Hollabaugh and Joseph Baiza, who “refused to give up on me” even though he had difficulty in class, noting not being in school since 1985.
"Between the both of them, they helped me achieve something I never thought I would ever do: get my HSE (high school equivalency),” he said. “I am finding that having my HSE is just the beginning. Now I can become whatever I put my heart and mind to. I’ve always wanted to become a certified welder and with a high school education, I can now pursue that goal by entering the welding apprenticeship program where I can earn while I learn this coming July.”
Angelika Regine Sanchez recognized that while the ceremony undoubtedly marked the first step toward a better future, “the road that lies ahead of us will not be easy to take,” she said. “There will be many obstacles and many roadblocks. There will be times when each of us feel like we can’t do it. But with all these things happening, we can overcome any obstacle that life throws at us. … Now it’s time to take the next step in our journey and start building our lives. Thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2017.”
Approximately 1,300 students were enrolled at Ayer Adult School in the English as a Second Language (ESL), High School Equivalency (HSE), and Remedial Education programs, in addition to what is offered at Elmwood during the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to Brahim. Classes will begin again in August, and tuition is free for ESL, Adult Basic Education (ABE), and HSE preparation classes. For more information, visit https://adulted.musd.org.