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Adult education center hosts first graduation at new location

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By Kacie Goode

Family took photos and smiled from their seats as the graduates received their certificates. As the guest speaker had told them, they were there because they had worked hard to meet their goal. On Monday night, the Bardstown/Nelson County Adult and Community Education Center held its first graduation ceremony at its new location on West Stephen Foster Avenue.

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While just two young men donned the cap and gown for the ceremony, they joined eight others who had recently met the requirements to receive their GEDs. Joined by classmate Clayton Sweatt, graduate Michael Booker, of Bardstown, was excited to be celebrating the evening.

“I’m ready to shine,” Booker said with a grin as they prepared to head out to the hallway.

At 24, Booker said he was happy to be reaching the next step, and said he was encouraged to visit the center by his uncle. It was just a few months ago, he said, that he walked in, asked about getting his GED, filled out some paperwork and started taking classes.

“I felt like it was a better time to further my education,” he said of the decision. “I dropped out of school when I was 16. It was a long time ago. It was rough. I quit school and I went to stripping tobacco. But it wasn’t making hardly any money. I got a job, and I still struggled.” So he figured it was a good time to get his GED and pursue college.

On Monday, as he sat in his cap and gown waiting for the ceremony to begin, Booker said the courses and the center were something he encouraged other adults to pursue.

“It has helped me a lot, and not just job wise, but confidence,” he said, adding, “You’ve got to be persistent. You can’t be lazy about it.”

He said he received a lot of support from the staff who helped him learn the subjects he didn’t know and brush up on what was rusty.

The Bardstown/Nelson County Adult and Community Education Center helps dozens of adults in the area get their GEDs through classes and academic assistance. This year, though, they have a better educational setting to work out of, and have seen growth as a result.

“We finally got here and settled in,” said Adult Education Specialist Rachel Daugherty, having moved to the new location in the spring. “It’s so much nicer to have a permanent classroom. We love it here. All my books are right here, we’ve got so much more availability and access, and people are starting to recognize where our location is.”

Over the years, the center has operated out of different locations, including out of the public library and behind the civic center. The new office is a welcomed opportunity for both staff and students.

Daugherty said the center sees a variety of age groups come in.

“I have students who are 19, I have students who are in their 70s,” she said. “Anybody is welcome to come and try to get their GED,” and they work with a variety of schedules for those who can only do a little at a time.

“It’s just exciting to watch these guys go through and get to move on,” Daugherty said of graduates, later adding, “It’s nice to be able to give them that little more independence, that opportunity.”

For the ceremony, the students wore caps and gowns, music played, they received certificates, took photos with family, and there was cake once everything had concluded. The graduates also heard from a guest speaker, Heather Reynolds, the admissions advisor for Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Springfield campus.

“People measure success in lots of different ways,” Reynolds said. “Success to me is setting goals and then achieving those goals. Working hard, being motivated, persevering through challenges.”

Reynolds encouraged the graduates not to stop, and to set new goals, push for new experiences and reach new heights. “This is not the end of the road, this is just the beginning.”

In addition to Sweatt and Booker, those receiving their GEDs also included Elijah Starkey, Courtney Jones, Jaime Hernandez, Walter Parrish and Austin McElyea, of Nelson County, and David Hickman, Ethan Wilson and Glen Bortz, of Washington County.

“They have achieved a goal for themselves,” said Dianne Bratcher, program director for Nelson and Washington counties, turning to the graduates. “We want to thank you for your dedication and your success.”

Daugherty said for those who are interested in getting their GED, the first step is to connect with the center.

“We’ve got really supportive people here,” she said. In addition to helping adults receive their GEDs, the center has also helped students after they move on to college with tutoring. “We can still provide that, even after they are through the GED.”

The Bardstown/Nelson County Adult and Community Education Center is located at 860 W. Stephen Foster Avenue in Bardstown, in the old employment office. The center is open during the day Monday through Thursday and can be reached at (502) 331-6242.