Twenty five adult learners were presented with their High School Equivalency diplomas during a ceremony hosted by the HFM BOCES Adult Education Services Tuesday, Aug. 15.
Awarded by the New York State Department of Education, the HSE diplomas qualify the graduates for additional employment opportunities and make them eligible for state and federal financial aid for further educational opportunities such as college.
The speakers at the event included HFM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel, HFM BOCES Board of Education President Joanne Freeman, HFM Adult Literacy Coordinator Laurie Bargstedt and Vinnie Nicosia, who represented state Sen. George Amedore’s office.
The event’s keynote speaker was Northville resident Paula O’Neil, who, together with her daughter, earned her high school equivalency through the HFM BOCES Literacy Zone. From there, the mother-daughter pair went on to earn degrees from Fulton-Montgomery Community College, and this spring earned bachelor degrees from University at Albany. O’Neil is currently pursuing her master’s degree. Their inspiring story was featured on Good Morning America this past May.
O’Neil told the graduates that they are always one decision away from a totally different life.
“Be present and think about what that looks like. Don’t let your age or circumstance determine your journey,” O’Neil said.
Bargstedt thanked the families for all the support they have given the graduates over the years, and reminded the graduates that we live in changing times.
“We live in an ever changing society. You can be a lifelong learner. This is the first step in your path,” Bargstedt said.
Freeman also encouraged the students to continue learning.
“Don’t stop here,” she said.
Graduates in attendance at the ceremony shared with the audience their plans for the future. The career fields the graduates will pursue include dental hygienist, bus driver, radiologist, architecture, the military, science, music and business.