Wallace State Community College’s Adult Education Department conducted its commencement recently, recognizing graduates from both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 classes at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre.

More than 30 graduates participated in the ceremony and more than 80 individuals earned their GED (general education development) or high school diploma during the 2020-2021 academic year.

“This is one of the most special events this college or any community college hosts. Life happens and sometimes our dreams get critically and severely deferred,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “You didn’t give up. You held on to that dream. I want to congratulate each of you for the job you have done of reaching this momentous occasion and milestone.”

Roslee Matlock was among the graduates recognized at the commencement, and she addressed her fellow graduates as the guest speaker. Matlock, of Hanceville, completed her specific GED requirements in a month’s span in 2020 and has since earned her Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) credentials. She has applied for admission into Wallace State’s Medical Assistant program.

“I was honored to be chosen to speak to my fellow graduates. Those of us who completed the program last year had to wait a year for graduation, but it’s worth it,” Matlock said. “I believe in every individual who walked across the stage. I know they’ll go far in life because they didn’t give up.”

Like many graduates wanting to set examples for their children, Johnny Crane, 49, of Warrior, decided to pursue his GED to complement his professional career.

“I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and went straight to work. I started building houses, got married, had children and continued to work. My hands-on experience provided me with many opportunities, but not having my GED closed many doors,” Crane said. “It doesn’t matter where you came from or what you do, nobody can take your education from you. Someone may take your house, car or land from you, but you’ll always have your knowledge and education.”

Added Ernesto Salazar, of Hartselle, who dropped out of high school at 16 and earned his GED 13 years later: “I’ve always wanted to better myself and earning the GED is among the first steps. It’s a huge relief off my shoulders. I can now pursue my dreams of becoming an engineer.”

Suzanne Harbin, Wallace State’s Interim Director of Adult Education and Vice President for Advancement and Innovation, opened the commencement by congratulating the graduates and commending the program’s instructors.

Multiple scholarships were presented prior to the graduates receiving their diplomas.

Jocelyn Johnson and Matilda Gann were recipients of the Hope House scholarship.

Alabama Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden presented on behalf of the Oden Family Scholarship, awarding it to Tonya Sanders. Oden also announced intentions to launch the Carol Oden Scholarship through the college’s Future Foundation.

Earning scholarships through Wallace State’s Future Foundation were Matlock and Skylar Bolton.

Jacob Gallups, Jeremiah Purcell and Seth Battaglia earned Wallace State scholarships, presented by Wes Rakestraw, WSCC’s Dean of Applied Technologies.

Wallace State’s Adult Education’s instructors and staff serve hundreds of students each year, spanning multiple sites across Blount, Cullman, Morgan and Winston Counties, including the Alabama Career Center, Alabama Teen Challenge, Cullman County Detention Center, Eva Town Hall, The Foundry, Lynn High School, the Hope House, Main Street Ministries, Meek High School, Parkside School, Royal Pines Center and both of the college’s campuses in Hanceville and Oneonta. The program also offers free ESL classes and career pathways certifications.

Last year’s commencement was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about Wallace State’s Adult Education program, contact 256.352.8078, email Jennifer.lambert@wallacestate.edu or visit wallacestate.edu/programs/adult-education.

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