32 earn diplomas, reach seemingly impossible goal

By By FAITH MEADOR CAMERON / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The seemingly impossible became reality for 32 students of a variety of ages Monday night as they realized their dreams of earning their diplomas and graduated Niles Adult Education program.
For more than 50 years, Niles Adult Education has been helping area adults take the first step toward a brighter future by offering classes and schedules that assist in their ultimate success and goal of completing their high school education.
The 2003 graduates were appreciative of the opportunity to complete that task. For many, Niles Adult Education has been a stepping stone toward their next goal.
Richard Klemm, director of Niles Adult Education, addressed the graduates who gathered with family and friends for a celebration dinner in honor of their achievements in the program.
After the dinner, several students honored and presented flowers to the people who inspired, supported and encouraged them to succeed. Some students recognized teachers and staff who encouraged them along the way, helping them overcome the family and life issues that so often stop students from reaching their education goals.
As friends and family gathered in the Niles High School auditorium, students donned traditional blue caps and gowns, and entered to the familiar Pomp and Circumstance.
Reminding the graduating class to "savor the moment," Klemm welcomed the dedicated students who had taken a "different path to obtain their diplomas."
Many students, indeed, showed dedication and perseverance as they worked on difficult subjects, placement testing, and an overall desire to do their best.
Thirteen students received "All 'A' Awards" for demonstrating excellence in their academic work.
A poetry selection, written by student Cherina Bailey and read by teacher Carol Lans, was appropriately titled "Dream Big."
Graduate Erika West said she had nearly given up on that dream.
Quitting school in 1995, West could hardly dare to dream of graduating. With seven class credits needed to graduate, raising her three young children seemed all she had time for.
She said she is grateful to her young daughter for bringing an Adult Education brochure home in her backpack from first grade. That brochure encouraged West to dare to dream again.
West spent a number of difficult months caring for her children, working on the weekends, and working hard during the week in classes to obtain her diploma.
West plans to pursue a college degree in social work now that her dream of graduating has come true.
Maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, West was also the recipient of the Adult Education 2003 Outstanding Student Award, along with a full two-year scholarship from Lake Michigan College, presented by Barbara Craig.
Graduate Bill Bilson received the LMC "Start Up" Award, as did six other recipients, due to their academic achievements. Wife Amy Bilson said she is very proud of Bill's hard work this year, noting that he attends LMC, and is studying to become a radiology technologist.
The Perseverance Award went to Dorie Bram, who didn't allow her new marriage, new baby, or her job deter her from working her hardest to achieve her goal.
Bram completed 14 classes, maintaining As and Bs and completing her requirements before spring break, clearly making her an inspiration to others.
Lyndsey Devens received the Academic Excellence Award Monday night and is planning to pursue a business degree at Southwestern Michigan College, Niles and Dowagiac. She said she is so proud to be a graduate, and is relieved it is finally here.
An honorary diploma was given to the parents of Henry Benner, who was well on the way to graduating at the time of his untimely death.
The Most Dedicated Student Award was given to Jennifer Novack, recognizing her effort to complete the program, in spite of personal obstacles that could have defeated her. Novack was recognized for her goals and determination, and will be pursuing a nursing degree through Southwestern Michigan College.
Doug Law, superintendent of Niles Community Schools, called out each graduate's name as the students walked across the auditorium stage to receive their desired diplomas.
Their footsteps resounded as a reminder to each graduate, that the step into a brighter and better future began with the final step they took last night when they walked back down the aisle, tassels waving, into the futures of which they no longer need fear to dream.
2003 Niles Adult Education Graduates: Jeffrey Axline, Tonia Baich, Cherina Bailey, Henry Benner, Bill Bilson, Dorie Bram, Jennifer Call, Brandon Carter, Tim Cox, Lyndsey Devens, Brandon Fast, Suesann Gross, Eric Hamilton, Shaun Harner, Leslie Hill, Ashley Hilligoss, Chad Kiggins, Bridget Lawson, Theresa Legus, Jamie Maglish, Matt Majerek, Jennifer Novack, Aaron Parm, Andrea Parm, Matt Schingel, David Strode, Anna Vanderbeck, Erika West and Ryan Zinninger.

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