900+ Adult Students Graduate with Pride and New Hope
SAN DIEGO – Pride was soaring even higher than the airplanes flying overhead during San Diego Continuing Education’s Commencement ceremony on June 1 in Balboa Park. More than 1,000 students and families packed the organ pavilion to share success end emotion with proud graduates who crossed the stage to collect their prize—a coveted High School Diploma, GED or a certificate of completion for a job training program.
The largest age group represented by students in Continuing Education is over age 50, as evidenced by the many cheers of jubilee coming from young children. “Congratulations Mom” was shouted repeatedly through the cheers of success, including when Justine Jefferson crossed the stage. Jefferson has the distinguishing characteristic of being the oldest graduate—age 80. The graduating class is full of nontraditional students, coming from a variety of backgrounds. Many have overcome very challenging life situations and chosen to reenter the classroom to position themselves for more education or a better job.
Rich Grosch, President of the Board of Trustees for the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) recognized the commitment of the students and families in his remarks to the graduates. “For a small number of gifted minorities, school may have come easy but for the rest of you, it was an uphill grind,” said Grosch. “You have sacrificed time and treasure to ensure walking across the stage today, and now you are now graduating from one of the finest institutions of its kind in the country.”
As reported in the Economic Impact on Region report prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists, SDCCD plays a significant role in the local economy and is a sound investment from multiple perspectives..
“You are transforming your own lives and you are transforming the lives and welfare of your families,” said Dr. Constance Carroll, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “Your success also improves the economic health of our community and state.” Students benefit from improved lifestyles and increased earnings. Taxpayers benefit from a larger economy and lower social costs.
The graduates represented the most diverse class within SDCCD, and likely the most diverse graduating class in the nation. “Continuing Education is a portal of citizenship and a beacon of hope for those who have come from foreign lands and are residents of California,” said Dr. Anthony Beebe, President of Continuing Education. The graduating class represented more than 30 countries including Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, China, Guatemala, and the Philippines.
As the adult education division of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD), Continuing Education serves 90,000+ students each year from six main campuses around San Diego. Ninety seven (97) students looking to enroll in college as a next step will benefit from 104 scholarship awards totaling more than $23,000. Beginning in fall 2011, eligible Continuing Education students will be given priority registration to City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges.
The ceremony was in collaboration with the San Diego Unified School District Adult High School Diploma Program. Awards included 190 GEDs, 168 High School Diplomas, and 572 certificates of completion.
Benhur Tsegay, age 34
Political asylee from Eritrea, Africa
Benhur Tsegay is not new to higher education. Growing up in Eritrea, Africa, Benhur completed high school and also earned an Associate degree in Business Management from Asmara Commercial College. However, his hope to continue his education at the university level was put on-hold as he was forced to flee his country in 2004 due to his Christian religion.
Benhur fled to find a place where he could live peacefully and safely. A six-year journey, and 14 countries later, Benhur arrived to the US, where at age 33, he was finally able to return to the classroom at Continuing Education.
His English is very good because his education in Eritrea was in English, plus his parents and family are English-speakers. Benhur’s assessment for English placed him in a high-level English as a Second Language (ESL) class. After successful completion of several ESL classes, Benhur passed the GED exam and is currently enrolled in a class that focuses on transition to college.
“I have an advantage over other students because the classes are teaching me how to think critically. For example, I’m learning how to contextualize what I’m reading into the world around me. I’m also learning the differences between a well-written paragraph and a well-written essay. The ways the instructors teach are preparing me for college in the US.”
Benhur is a 2011 Continuing Education scholarship recipient and plans to take additional English classes at Mesa College, and enroll in City College for healthcare classes. His long-term goal is to become a medical doctor.
Maria Whitehead, age 23
Single mother (children ages 2.5 years and 2 months)
After completing 9th grade at Montgomery High School, Maria Whitehead dropped out at age 14 because she lacked confidence in her academic ability. The next several years of her life included the birth of her first child, homelessness, and failed attempts at education.
In 2010, while living in a homeless shelter with her baby daughter, Maria made the decision to meet with CalWORKS Intake Coordinators at Continuing Education to determine an educational plan. She found the human and financial support she needed to work on skills to complete her GED, and scored well on initial assessment tests for basic skills.
Her persistence resulted in successful completion of a GED, and subsequent enrollment at City College where she is studying as a paralegal. Her long-term educational goals include transfer to a four-year university to study criminal justice. Maria’s success is possible because she overcame obstacles, set goals, and made use of available resources. She wants her children to know “No matter what you’ve gone through, you can go back and fix it.”
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San Diego Continuing Education is the adult education division of the San Diego Community College District.
SDCE was one of the first continuing education institutions in California to meet the standards for independent accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. More than 90,000 students are served per academic year at six main campuses in San Diego. Noncredit classes are available at no cost, including online options.
Certificate programs are offered for numerous industries including: Automotive Technician, Child Development, Culinary, Nursing Assistant training, Professional Bakeshop Skills and Web Specialist. Classes are free because San Diego Continuing Education is part of the California system of higher education. Funding also comes through business and industry partnerships. Learn more at www.sdce.edu.