Several graduates of the Davis Adult School told the crowd at Wednesday’s ceremony that they were motivated to return to school because a new baby had entered their lives, bringing them a clearer sense of purpose.
“When I found out I was going to be a father, I decided to get a diploma for my daughter,” said one. “I want to be a good father to my son,” added another.
One middle-aged graduate credited her late father, whose “last prayer was that I would finish high school.”
Another expressed appreciation to his mother, who’d urged him to resume his studies after he had problems with the law, and substance abuse. “Mom is always there for you,” he said gratefully.
And for these Adult School graduates, some of whom felt at points in the past that they might never finish their diploma, Wednesday’s ceremony at the Veterans’ Memorial Center was especially sweet.
Graduate James Omar Martinez was there with his mother Olga Martinez, his fiancée Beatrice Chaidez and his son Santino Martinez, who will be “one month old in a few days,” Martinez said.
Looking to the future, “I want to go on to law school,” Martinez declared. “I want to become a voice for the people who don’t have the knowledge and understanding to speak up for themselves.”
Graduate Marivel Rivas was there with her daughter Jennifer, age 2.
“I dropped out of high school as a senior” about 10 years ago, Rivas said. She’d tried several times to return to school and finish her diploma, “but I kept getting interrupted.”
The experience of becoming a mother may have given Rivas an inspiration in terms of her future career: “I want to be a labor and delivery nurse,” she said.
Janet Wilson, at age 50, was the eldest of the graduates, and to the delight of Adult School Principal Laurel Clumpner, Wilson came prepared to address the crowd.
“Before I even asked, she had already written her speech,” Clumpner said.
Wilson told the assembled students and parents that “The past is part of who I am, the future is securely in God’s hands, and today is filled with opportunities to grow in my understanding of love, forgiveness, truth, grace and knowledge.”
Speaking on behalf of herself and her fellow students, Wilson thanked the Adult School’s staff, saying, “They gave us opportunities to grow. They stretched our abilities to rise above our circumstances. We didn’t give up on the process of trying to succeed.”
On hand to hear Wilson give her speech were her mother Marie, brother Alvin, sister-in-law Phyllis and friend Shundon Anderson. After hearing her daughter deliver her graduation speech, Marie Wilson said, “It feels great. I was with her the whole year (as she completed her studies). She would get up and start studying at 6:30 a.m., and work late into the night.”
Other parents were equally thrilled. This has been a big week for parent Bob Bowen, whose elder son Tyler graduated from the Davis Adult School on Wednesday, and whose younger son Spencer was honored with the Gordon True Service Cup at Tuesday’s Senior Awards Night at Davis High School.
“I feel a little bit overwhelmed,” Bob Bowen said. “The Davis Adult School is amazing, a lifeline and a resource for our town.”
Tyler Bowen added, “The Adult School has been really supportive. I finished several credits (needed for graduation) and passed the exit exam.” He added that he plans to pursue further studies at the Sacramento City College Davis Center.
Wednesday’s ceremony also featured three scholarships, which have not always been a part of the Adult School commencement in the past. Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby presented a scholarship he is sponsoring with his family.
“It is an honor to be here with the graduates,” Colby said. “This is my fourth year coming to the Davis Adult School’s graduation ceremony. It’s incredible — the stories of courage and determination that all of these grads have gone through to get here today.”
Colby presented a scholarship to graduate Thomas Lee. Other scholarship recipients were Janet Wilson and Marissa Magaña.
Clumpner stressed the importance of adult education programs, particularly in times like these.
“The demand for adult ed increases during an economic downturn as people turn to affordable programs to earn certificates and diplomas,” she said.
Clumpner noted that the unemployment rate for adults who have not completed high school is roughly triple the rate for college graduates.
“Adult education schools are the largest and most successful workforce development program” in our state, Clumpner said, “yet these programs are very much at risk because of budget constraints.”
The Davis Adult School, she said, continues to serve about 2,000 students, even though the number of courses offered has been trimmed. This year, in addition to the Adult School’s own graduates, the program helped 34 students from Davis, King or Da Vinci high schools make up credits so they could graduate from their respective schools with their peers.
The Adult School also served six adult students who took courses in English as a second language at the same time they were enrolled in courses needed to meet the requirements for a high school diploma.
Smiling at the graduates, and blinking through a tear or two, Clumpner said, “I urge you all to remain lifelong learners.”
The Class of 2011 is: Manraj Bhullar, Tyler Patrick Bowen, Brandon Dueñas, Roberto Estrada, Jose L. Fierros, Kendra Rachelle Fowler, Jennifer Jaclene Gardner, Cody Daniel Goeson, Matthew Frank Guerrero, Justin Vincent Harter, Blanca Estela Hernandez, Ryan Zackery Hernandez, Cristian Jimenez, Joshaw Michael Killeen, Thomas Lee, Marissa Angelica Magaña, James Omar Martinez, Samuel Mederos, Luis Arturo Peña, Marivel Rivas, Daniel Abbas Rizvi, Sabrina Rose Silva, Cynthia Maria Tello, Janet Marie Wilson
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.