As family members and friends proudly snapped photographs, 19 men and women donned caps and gowns in a hallway at Ashland Community and Technical College on Sunday afternoon.

It was their chance to march to “Pomp and Circumstance;” to walk across the stage and be recognized for the hard work put forth to accomplishment a goal many have worked years to achieve — earning a high school diploma.

Joan S. Flanery, director of Boyd County’s Adult Education Program, welcomed supporters who packed the teleconference room at ACTC for the General Educational Development graduation.

“We have 82 graduates this year, and we just learned about 12 of them,” she started.

“Some have waited quite a while; some not so long. Some had to study for a long, long time; and for others, it came pretty easy. Some, like these graduates here, stuck with the program and did it — and we congratulate you for it,” Flanery said, as applause and an “Amen” rang out within the room.

GED tests were established in 1942 to help returning World War II veterans finish their studies and earn a high school credential. It is a battery of five multiple-choice tests that ask questions about subjects covered in high school. The exam covers reading, mathematics, social studies, science and writing skills. The writing skills portion includes a 200-word essay. The exam takes about 7 hours to complete.

The director told the audience about some exceptional GED scores. One graduate, Joshua Miller of Ashland, scored 710 out of 800 points on the writing section of the test.

“Education has always been important to my parents. They impressed that on me and I have taken it to heart,” Miller said. “The first step to making the world a better place is to better yourself intellectually.”

The 18-year-old said he dropped out of high school before he could graduate with his class.

“There are a lot of pressures in high school. I didn’t want to conform,” he said. “I just wanted to take a step back and develop my own ideas about the world.”

Miller said he plans on going to college to become a creative fiction writer.

“I want to be remembered for my ideas and education is the first step to making that happen.”

During the ceremony, Flanery read the names of some famous people who earned a GED, including Grateful Dead guitarist/singer Jerry Garcia, Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton, country music singer Waylon Jennings and founder of Wendy’s restaurant Dave Thomas.

“One out of every seven people who earn a high school diploma have a GED,” Flanery said. “And 68 percent of GED graduates have plans to go to college. It takes a lot of discipline to go to college. But you’ve already shown you can stick with it by having the discipline to get a GED.”

Gloria White of Ashland volunteered to say a few words about what it means to have earned her GED.

“It takes a lot of strength and practice and it’s especially hard for those like me who have small children,” White said. “You don’t want to get up and go to classes but we have to encourage our children to continue their education. I want our children to look up to me.

“We, as graduates, have all wanted to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others — this is one step to doing just that.”

Graduates received certificates, a small gift and a flower to help them remember their graduation day.

Angela Tackett, 30, of Ashland, said getting her GED is “another chance to do it right.”

“It’s taken me 14 years to get here,” Tackett said. “I got pregnant at 15 years old and my ex-husband wouldn’t let me go to school.”

This occasion will be especially memorable for Tackett because she graduated with her husband, Steven, 27, who dropped out of high school at age 16 to work a construction job.

The couple, who have been married for seven years, said getting their GED will help them provide for their five children.

“If you don’t have a high school diploma, you need to get it,” Angela Tackett said. “You can’t even get a fast food job these days without one.

“We are trying to impress on our children to stay in school because they won’t make it anywhere without an education.”

Pregnancy was the reason Angela Green, 27, of Ashland, didn’t graduate with her high school class. She said she started taking the GED test 10 years ago.

“I had my first child when I was 14,” she said. “I wanted to do this because no one thought I could and because my husband always says I never finish anything I start.”

Brenda Akers, 19, of Ashland, said she wanted to get her GED as an accomplishment for herself as well as her daughter, who is due to be born in August.

“I didn’t want my kid to think I was stupid,” she said. “And I wanted to be able to help her with her homework.”

Akers said she was a slow learner in high school and that the one-on-one help she received from the staff of the Adult Education Program helped her pass the test.

“It feels real good,” she said about getting her diploma. “If you are contemplating going back to get you GED, do it. It makes you feel better about yourself and it’s not as hard as everyone says it is. It was actually pretty easy.”

Every year GED tests make it possible for 800,000 adults to go college, obtain jobs or job promotions, achieve personal goals and become eligible to enlist in the military.

“Everyone has the power to impact their own lives,” Flanery said. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.”

SARAH LYNCH can be reached at or (606) 326-2650.

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