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The Forgotten Graduate

On Friday, May 15, 2009 at Gheen’s Auditorium on the campus of Male High School, Jefferson County Public Schools Adult Education Systems held it’s 32nd General Education Diploma graduation ceremony. This ceremony was not announced in newspapers, on websites, nor on television, but it was one that every one in attendance would not have missed. This was the day, the hour, and the minute that so many individuals were looking forward for, sometimes for many years of their lives.

  While many individuals considered to be “graduating” would have been fresh out of high school or college, these students were 20-50 years of age. They came from a variety of backgrounds, but all were united at one school that they never finished, and some had never attended, for one chance to do what they had never done before.

  There were family members in the audience, willing participants to the party that was bound to happen. Some had waited for decades to witness this event. Some had come with flowers, some with cards, some with babies, but they had come to celebrate.

  After a few short speeches, the names were called. Since there had not been a “rehearsal” as there is in “traditional” graduations; the graduates handed little 3” x 5” index cards to the Master of Ceremony to read their name. Beaming, they walked, strutted, and danced across the stage. Some had tears as they walked down the front of the stage- all possessed smiles of some sort.

  The audience was willing participants to the celebration. Few stayed in their seats. Many ran forward to the edge of the stage to cheer, high five, and snap as many photos as they could. The screams of nicknames, “I love you”, and celebratory yells resonated through the auditorium.

    Finally, it came to the end, and the moment was coming for me, as I saw my wife of ten years- my beautiful bride- walk across the stage. Pregnant with our fourth child, her gown was unable to be zipped. She almost did not walk. She almost did not enjoy her few seconds of notoriety. Thankfully, she did; all because amongst this group of unnoticed graduates, there was one forgotten graduate who helped make a difference.

  I do not recall his name. He was the last person to walk across the stage. His body type was “frumpy”, and his gown was unzipped as well. His hair was cut, or rather shaven, to where the scalp was easily viewed. When he walked across the stage, few clapped. He grabbed his diploma and sat down. When the even closed, he left. He was unnoticed; he was forgotten.

  On the way to the restaurant that night, my wife informed me that he had seen her crying in frustration that night at the thought that she was to big to wear a gown. She wanted to leave and informed those around her that she was leaving. She was reduced to tears when he asked to speak to her.

  “You have a reason to be big” he said. “Me, my reason is that I like to eat.” “You have a family here,” he continued, “and I thought that I would not walk because my family does not want me to be here, they do not even care to be here. But I worked hard for this, and you worked hard for this. You need to walk across that stage and get that diploma. You earned it. It’s yours. Go get it”.

 

  I do not know his name. I do not recall his identity. That night, however, the forgotten graduate that night made a big difference in the life of my family. I now see the Adult Education Program as quite possibly the program we the public should not only endorse, but celebrate. That night, the forgotten graduate became someone worth noticing in a group of unnoticed graduates- unnoticed from public view, but the view from the public is often skewed, and perhaps, in need of drastic change by those we have forgotten.

May 18, 2009 - Posted by | Opinion | ,

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