GED graduation showcases inspired students

Rob Britt, Blount County director of schools, congratulates James Piacitelli on completing his GED.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Rob Britt, Blount County director of schools, congratulates James Piacitelli on completing his GED.

Jubilant family members cheered on 51 adult education graduates in a packed William Blount High School auditorium on Friday, June 17, as the graduates achieved a milestone that had eluded them.

“What you have achieved is so very impressive,” Carol Ergenbright, coordinator of the Adult Education program, told the graduates during ceremony. “Passing the GED test is not easy.”

Twice a year, Blount County Adult Education holds graduation for those who have passed the general education diploma (GED) test. This semester, a total of 101 people graduated and many of those came out for the graduation festivities.

Ergenbright said 47 of the graduates passed the test with a score of 525 or higher, which qualifies them for the Hope Scholarship and is considered an equivalent of a B average. The highest possible score is 800.

Colby Johnson, 17, is one of the youngest valedictorians the Blount County program has had, Ergenbright said. Johnson, who scored 682 on the test, was recognized for his achievement and spoke briefly at the event. He told the crowd that he never thought he would be doing something like this, but he had realized the value of an education.

Two graduates, Angela M. Moriarty and Richard Lee Mingle, were awarded the “Bo Henderson Victory Award.”

The Adult Education Foundation of Blount County helps support the adult education program by providing additional funding and public awareness about the program.

Those who work with the GED program say the reasons people don’t finish high school in the traditional way are as varied as people themselves. Some students don’t even make it to high school through no fault of their own. Such is the story of Stephen Woosley and his younger brother, John. Stephen graduated June 17, and John received a certificate of achievement. John has one last test to take before he will graduate.

In an interview prior to the ceremony, Stephen said he didn’t go past the third grade in school. His father was a disabled Vietnam vet who had difficulty dealing with people and pulled the boys out of school.

Although Stephen said he had a great job as a construction manager in Las Vegas, he lost his job when the economy fell out and couldn’t find another one. He ended up moving to Blount County. Stephen said he decided to go back to school and get his GED because he couldn’t find a permanent job without a high school diploma or the GED. He had another motivation as well: He has two young sons, and he wanted to show them the importance of education.

Stephen has been working as a temporary employee at Denso while he pursued his GED. He worked the third shift (11:30 p.m. - 7:30 a.m.) and took classes during the day to prepare for the test. Now with his GED, he’ll be able to be hired as a permanent employee.

And Stephen hopes to continue his education by taking some management courses.

Another graduate who hopes to use his GED to springboard to further education is John Blair. Blair, a Blount County native who dropped out of Everett High School back in the mid-1960s, actually passed the GED test in 1967. Blair asked for the results to be sent to Blount County, even though he wasn’t living here at the time, but they got lost. He never had to prove his status because he was already employed.

After retiring from the printing industry in Atlanta, Blair turned his thoughts to something he loves to do: Cook. He decided to apply for culinary school, but he couldn’t find a record of his GED and decided to take it again. That landed him at the old Everett High School building, where the adult education classes are held. One of the rooms where he took classes was in his old homeroom.

“I thought that was ironic,” he said with a laugh. Eventually the other record was found in Nashville, but this time he got to graduate.

Now that he has come full circle, Blair has the opportunity to choose the career he wants.

“Hopefully now I can get into culinary school,” he said. “Something I enjoy more.”

Ergenbright said GED classes will resume in August. “We are not having regular GED classes in the month of July, but they will start again in August,” she said.

For more information on GED classes, contact Blount County Adult Education at 865-982-8998.

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