By Kristin Capezio

If you missed the 2015 Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences graduation you are in for a treat with this recap.
The event began with a trickle of awardees, families and students entering the building just after 6pm. Students checked in with the Hi Set, ADP or ELL coordinators and scurried over to collect and dress in their caps and gowns. In the meantime, family members, teachers and counselors comingled in the front lobby, talking about the year’s accomplishments and the achievements to come.
Right at 7pm, the event kicked off with all graduates entering the auditorium to a standing ovation. Together, we shared in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Superintendent Pierantozzi. Over a hundred audience members rose to face the American flag. Then, SCALE’s chief supervisor, Janice Philpot opened the ceremony with a warm welcome and introduction of SCALE, its services, students and employees. The first of several awards given last night was the Eileen B. Strier Memorial. This award was given to a student who has preserved through many struggles in order to accomplish her goals. She was in shock that evening, finding out only moments before that she was the award recipient. Her family cheered from their seats, surprised as well at the great honor. Congratulations, Alexandra Doucette!
Next in the evening’s procession was the Susan L. Barnard award. Susan could not be present to award personally, so she sent her daughter to do the honor. Her daughter, Danyel Barnard, presented the award to a student who came to SCALE from the Ivory Coast. This student struggled to save up money to come to the United States after years of working and raising her 7 siblings. She sat on stage with officials from the Somerville Public School System for the entire evening. Her name is Estere Koffi and she is truly an inspiration to those who want more for themselves and their families. She is model student and we were proud to call her a member of the SCALE student body. Her dream is to become a surgical nurse and we believe she will get there.
As the next phase of the ceremony began, ELL teachers Laura Brooks and Jennifer Barrett took the stage. The ELL Graduates have completed all of the studies in the ELL program and are ready to attend Adult Basic Education Classes. The ELL student speaker last evening was Nadia Chraichira. She shared with the audience her triumphs and tribulations getting through the ELL classes. These struggles and successes resonated with many students from both the ABE and ELL programs. So often, one needs a support system at home, a reasonable means of transportation, the personal motivation to continue, and the security of knowing that in their absence, family will be taken care of. That makes adult education incredibly challenging to balance but Nadia is an example of how, in one family, it could be done.
A notable speech of the evening came from the Hi Set student speaker. The Hi Set Test is the state’s new, enhanced GED. Throughout the changeover process and adoption by the state of Massachusetts, Hi Set has been criticized for being much harder than the GED, across all subjects. As each year passes, it is true, students are expected to know more and have developed more strategies for applying what they learned. The underlying theme of all those who spoke on behalf of Hi-Set was to continue in the face of failure and understand that commitment to learning is a lifelong endeavor. Still, speaker Nathaniel Impert, Hi Set Achiever in the 2015 SY, had the most prolific words to share. He said that America is a place where you can reach your dreams. Our country is a great one that provides an education to all those who wish to learn—no matter what age, or race, creed or gender. His remarks on American culture and community, and his gratitude to America for his continued success garnered major cheers from the audience members. It is often easy for those of us born in a country where public education is free and accessible to all, where books and materials are provided, and the establishments have electricity and plumbing 24 hours a day, to forget that there are dozens of countries and hundreds of cities where these conditions simply do not exist. He is truly a lifelong learner and his path to a fulfilling academic career has only just begun.
The ceremony closed with a lively turning-of-the-tassels hosted by Janice Philpot. Students were going from those without a recognized high school education equivalency to those newly endowed with one. All members of the SCALE and Somerville Public School Community that spoke at the ceremony supported the idea that commencement is simultaneously the end of a chapter, for some long and for some very short, and the start of a new one. This benchmark would hopefully lead students to the additional training they desire, a raise at work, or university education. What’s profound about the graduation, and about SCALE, and Hi Set, and ADP, is that it expresses the volume of alternate education options available for students. The mainstream high school experience is not a positive one for all. Many students benefit from learning in different settings and being given opportunities to express what they know in a variety of ways. We hope to be there for the students who want another try on a different path. We will be there for them in the future, as we have in the past, and celebrating their victories along the way.
If you are interested in viewing all of the photos from the Graduation Ceremony, find us on FB:

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