Regional School Unit 13 hosted its 2014 Adult Education graduation June 4, a ceremony to celebrate the 25 men and women who earned their high school diploma, GED or High School Equivalency Test or HiSet this year.

Graduates attending the ceremony included Madelyn Bark, Pamela Barr, Jonas Blumenthal, Brianna Bernardo, Brandon Carleton, Heather Dudley, Alicia Eagan, Braden Gamage, Robert McKay, Jason Merrill, Ceajay Nelson, Amy Phillips, Austin Ranquist, Caleb Schesser, Casey Thomas, Jason Willey and Kimberly Young.

Shannon M. Parker, director for RSU13’s Adult Education program, began the ceremony by welcoming attendees and graduates and thanking those in the audience for their support.

“We often don’t give enough praise to that integrated support system that allows our graduates to strive, achieve, and thrive. We lean on family members, neighbors, friends, and mentors… and we thank you. For so many of us, it truly does take a village,” said Parker, according to a news release. So it was only fitting that the guest speaker was a community business leader who devotes much of her time to helping adults gain literacy and citizenry skills.

Connie Sawyer, Rockland branch manager for Camden National Bank, also serves as an academic volunteer for Literacy Volunteers of Midcoast Maine, a partner agency to RSU13 Adult Education. Sawyer spoke to the 200-plus crowd about opening “doors of opportunity” and how obtaining a diploma marked the first step to a lifetime of possibility and opportunity. The theme for Sawyer’s speech was born from a snippet of conversation she overheard in the Learning Center while volunteering. Kim Young, a 2014 graduate, told a peer learner that she felt her experience in adult education was opening all sorts of doors for opportunity. Sawyer couldn’t forget that powerful phrase and even presented graduates with a beautifully framed quote by Lyndon B. Johnson: “We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”

Michael Wilhelm, RSU13 interim superintendent, presented graduates with their diplomas. Parker was honored to present one of the 2014 graduates with a scholarship for post-secondary learning. Ceajay Nelson was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Capilo Institute, where she plans to start a cosmetology program in late June. The scholarship was a surprise to Nelson's family and the presentation was met with tears of joy.

The evening also included recognition for the tutors who work with students in the full-time Adult Learning Center. Tutors in attendance numbered nearly 15 and they were asked to stand to receive a round of applause. Parker spoke passionately about their dedication: “The men and women before you volunteer their time, energy, compassion and expertise to help students achieve their academic, vocational and personal goals. They greet each student with a smile and fresh enthusiasm and are the foundation and framework of our success. We could not accomplish any of this without their efforts.” The auditorium exploded in a second round of applause.

The final presentation was one for Beth A. Gifford, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Midcoast Maine. Every student who chose to speak during the ceremony thanked Gifford for her faith in them, her drive for helping them complete their GED, HiSET or High School Diploma. Robert McKay, one of the graduates, presented Gifford with a climbing rose on behalf of all students as a symbol of thanks. RSU 13 is fortunate to work seamlessly with Literacy Volunteers of Midcoast Maine in their collective effort to provide free education to adults needing assistance with literacy to high school completion to college preparation.

“All year we bear close and constant witness to so many student achievements, but being able to formally recognize these accomplishments and celebrate with family and friends is an amazing gift,” said Parker. After the ceremony, the large crowd gathered in the Oceanside East gymnasium for treats and additional picture taking.