Maryland — Read the graduation speech of an NEDP diploma recipient in Charles County, Maryland, as he shares his story with fellow graduates and guests.
"Good Evening Everyone,
When I was asked to speak at our graduation, I first thought "No Way". I've never stood in front of a crowd and don't know the first thing about giving a speech. I made the mistake of mentioning the speaking opportunity to my wife, who convinced me that I was just the guy for the job.
After some thought, it occurred to me, if you had asked me 20 years ago if I'd ever go back to school to get my high school diploma, I would have thought, "No way". Just like I never imagined I’d be standing up giving any kind of speech, much less a graduation speech! I left high school in the 9th grade and thought school just wasn't for me. I never thought about going to college or how an education might change my life. I didn't think it was possible.
I've always worked hard and been able to find jobs to make a decent living. Until last year, I thought I was doing just fine. I figured that I'd just keep working in the mechanical trade and maybe one day I'd get a management job. Then last year, something changed for me. I decided I might like to try a few college classes. I decided I might want a little more for myself. I figured that if I really wanted to move up in my field, some more education couldn’t hurt. Before I could even consider taking any college courses, I had to finish my high school education.
Of course, the first thing I did was 'Google' GED programs in Maryland. I don't know how we survived before the internet! There were GED programs and classes and all kinds of options. There were even online training courses that guaranteed success in passing GED exams. The thought of taking a big exam like that really made me nervous. Once again I found myself thinking, "this all seems too far out of reach".
Thankfully some of the counselors at the local community college told me about a new program. They told me the program offered a format that would allow me to earn credit for my life experience and become more familiar with current technologies by completing course work online. When I heard that news, I thought, “this sounds like the plan for me.” I couldn’t believe it but I actually started to get excited about going back to school!
Before I knew it, I was signed up, working with my instructors one night a week, and making my way through all kinds of courses that were actually relevant in my day to day life. I explored subjects like history, civics, science, personal finances and politics. My instructor, Carol was patient and kind with me while I struggled to learn new technologies – especially spreadsheets and Microsoft Word which before the program were like a foreign language to me. Not only did I make it through the entire program, I came away with tools that I need to take me to the next level. All of a sudden, all those impossible things started to seem very possible.
Well, here I am 20 years later, on a stage, speaking to all of you, receiving my high school diploma. Since completing the program and earning my diploma, I have started my first two college courses and have applied to jobs that were previously out of reach. It took a lot of determination and hard work to get here. I hope that you all feel as proud of your achievement as I do. I hope that this is the beginning of a new journey for all of you in the same way that it is for me. I hope the new skills you have gained help you get to the next level. I hope you have learned few things in life are impossible. Congratulations to all of you on your achievement!"