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Published on May 31st, 2014 | by editor


In Celebration of GED and Certificate Completion

On Friday I was honored to speak to the GED and Certificate Completers for Harold Washington College, Truman College, and Wright College at a Recognition Ceremony. It was a moving event, really quite wonderful, and my remarks follow.

Ladies, gentlemen, faculty, staff, honored guests, friends, family, and above all, students, Welcome to City College’s Adult Education and Certification Recognition Ceremony for Truman College, Harold Washington College, and Wright College. We are delighted that you are with us tonight to celebrate excellence and student success.

My name is David Potash and I am president of Wilbur Wright College. College presidents have many duties. We plan budgets, hire faculty and staff, make compelling arguments for more resources, and represent our colleges in the community. It is a tremendous job that brings challenges and opportunities on a daily basis. And of all the many responsibilities and functions, none is as joyful, as important, as an event like this. Calling out and celebrating you – students who complete and succeed – is a wonderful thing. So to all of tonight’s completers – thank you and congratulations.

Congratulations also to the family members and friends who have offered support, sacrificed and can now celebrate this achievement with their loved ones. Also, I want to recognize the faculty members for the pivotal role they have played in these students’ lives. Your quality instruction helps connect students to better job prospects and increased educational opportunities. And so, too, the staff that have created a supportive student-focused environment.

I want to acknowledge tonight’s student speaker, Jose Mendez, who has succeeded on all levels of our Adult Education programs. Jose started as an ESL student and quickly moved to the GED program, which he completed within one year. He is a model student, always in class, always on time, and a hard worker. Jose just recently started the Gateway Program to transition to college credit courses and is now attending his first college class. Again, thank you Jose, for your remarks. We wish you continued success.

The journey that you have taken has not been easy. We all have important responsibilities, tasks that must be completed, chores that must be done. That is how we lead our lives. What you have done is take on additional work. You assigned more to yourself – you gave yourself challenges. That takes courage. That takes commitment.  That takes vision and inner strength.

Maya Angelou, the great poet and essayist who passed away earlier this week and who found success after facing many struggles, once said, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

Today, we give pause to acknowledge you, to celebrate what you have done, and the personal strength and perseverance it took to get here.

Abraham Solis-Jaramillo is celebrating his GED today. Abraham started his journey more than 10 years ago, taking ESL and GED classes. When life got in the way – as it often does – he had to put his studies on hold until he was ready to return 2 years ago. This time, he was all in. While attending his GED classes, Abraham worked a job that started at 4:30 in the morning. When work ended, he attended his evening GED classes, which wrapped up at 9:30 at night. At 4:30 the next morning, he would begin the day again, doing his homework on the bus during his 2-hour commute. Last summer, Abraham enrolled in the Gateway Program to transition to college credit courses and is now a member of the Gateway Scholars Club. He is also working on completing his associate degree. Abraham recently joined the staff in the Adult Education department, where he helps new students register and begin their own paths to educational opportunity. Thank you and congratulations, Abraham.

Let’s face it – times are tough. There are no easy paths to success and what was financially secure and stable a generation ago may not be today. Companies change and jobs change. There are very sure things. To find happiness and a career, ongoing education is a necessity.

Tempess Boyle – who is celebrating receiving her Certificate in Basic Nursing Assistant today – understands this. She graduated from Robert Morris College with an associate degree in cosmetology. She came to Wright College to explore a new career direction in Nursing. After her clinical experiences, and with the guidance of her instructors, she realized that nursing indeed is the right fit for her. As a wife and mother of three children, she has had to juggle schedules and home responsibilities, but she was determined to complete the program.  And, she did. Tempess is currently scheduled to take her State Certification exam for CNA and is actively seeking employment as a CNA. She plans on pursuing a degree in nursing – hopefully at Wright College. Tempess is here today with her family to celebrate her accomplishments. We wish you all the best, Tempess, and you are inspiration.

Mitch Dominguez is celebrating his GED today. It has not been an easy road for Mitch, having suffered a stroke six years ago at age 28. After a difficult recovery, he enrolled in Truman’s GED program, where he received inspiration and support from instructors like Monica Blake and Bill Mitchell, who, he says, made writing and math easier to understand, and even fun. Mitch is joined today by his father, who not only helped him through his recovery, but who also inspired him to become a chef by cooking and baking with him during Mitch’s childhood. With his GED in hand, Mitch is moving forward with his culinary dream and is now a student at Kendall College. Congratulations, Mitch.

Gail Daniels is also celebrating her GED this evening. At age 64, she’s realizing a lifelong dream. Gail left high school at age 16, got married and had a child.  In her 20s, Gail – married with 4 children – started a job in housekeeping that did not require a high school diploma. She eventually began doing office work and data entry, and worked for a manager who encouraged her to return to school for her GED. She agreed, and found that she enjoyed going to classes, even though it was challenging to balance schoolwork and her overnight shift at work. On days off, she cared for her ailing mother-in-law and battled illness herself. Sadly, last year, Gail’s son was attacked and went into a coma. In those difficult days and weeks, Gail faced both tragedy and bittersweet triumph, passing her final GED test just 10 days before her son’s death. Gail, we are very sorry for your loss and we salute your strength and achievement.

What Jose, Abraham, Tempess, Mitch, Gail and so many students here understand is that an education is an investment in a fulfilling and productive life. I use that word – investment – for a reason. Investing is different from saving. When we save, we hold on to what we have. We want to protect, to keep things safe, when we save.

Investing is something different. Investing is taking resources – time, money, attention – and directing them in a way that leads to growth. Investment is strategic. Investment is about the future. And an education is a very smart investment in yourself. An education will help with growth and with providing opportunities. An education is an investment – and the economists are very clear about this – that pays off over time. Nationally, those that have a high school diploma make on average much more than those who don’t. Average salaries for associate degree holders are higher than those who have a high school diploma. And average salaries of people who have a four-year college degree are higher still.

Your investment of time and effort has led you to this point. Enjoy this moment, savor it, and appreciate it. Remember, too, that success begets success. Continue to set ambitious goals. Continue to invest in your education and to invest in yourself. You already have a proven track record.  I am absolutely sure that you are an outstanding investment – I am confident in your continued success.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk with you. You have my appreciation, admiration, and all best wishes for the future.

David Potash

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