Twelve more area graduates received their high school diplomas Tuesday evening, when the Barton County Academy held its 2020 commencement ceremony in Jack Kilby Square.
The academy allows adults age 19 and up to earn a high school diploma as well as workplace enhancement skills and the English language, if needed. Classes are offered through the ESSDACK learning center located at 1010 Taft St. in Great Bend.
Director Steven Polley and three of the graduating students spoke to the audience at the band shell, with many people wearing face masks and maintaining a social distance.
“Graduates, you are the reason we are here celebrating tonight,” Polley said. “For some of you, your journey toward this diploma began years ago.” Even those who had a shorter journey did not take the traditional path to graduation. “Along the way, there were challenges and you met each on head-on to get to this night.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was one such challenge, forcing everyone to work harder after March to finish the journey, he said.
Eight of the graduates were also inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society. To be selected for this honor a student had to exceed the requirements of graduation by displaying dependable attendance, a cooperative attitude and a strong work ethic. Those honorees each received a certificate, an NAEHS pin, and two letters of recommendation – one for future employment and one for financial assistance for continued education.
One of the speakers, Madison Doyle, said she plans to attend Barton Community College and to pursue a career in social work.
Ana Mendoza also spoke, telling everyone, “I think it is never too late to study. ... Listen to the voice of what you want in life.” She ended her speech with a thumbs up as she said, “Yes! I did it!”
Blanca Fabela was the final graduate chosen to speak. “My children and my husband were my motivation,” she said.
The Barton County Academy staff was there to cheer the graduates on, although English as a Second Language teacher Patty Fletchall had to settle for “elbow bumps” as she congratulated each one. “I just want to hug everybody!” she said.
Refreshments were served following the ceremony.
The graduates were (* denotes National Adult Education Honor Society): Destin Baker*, Edith Bautista*, Courtney Clark*, Madison Doyle, Ana Fabela Luna*, Blanca Fabela*, Alicia Hernandez, Ana Mendoza*, Kristen Shephard*, Eva Soto Lomas*, Zach Thayer and Ky Vanscyoc.
Polley noted that classes for the next semester will be starting in August. Classes are available at no cost to the learner with full-time enrollment. For more information call 620-792-7995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Facebook: facebook.com/BartonCountyAcademy.
Earning a diploma during a pandemic
During Tuesday’s Barton County Academy graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020, Director Steven Polley mentioned the challenges students faced after schools closed their doors in March because of the pandemic. The Great Bend Tribune asked Polley to elaborate on how school was conducted after the shutdown.
“When Governor Kelly and the state closed schools, we closed our doors as well,” he said. “We immediately went to a setting of communicating with students electronically in ways that worked best for them. I had weekly meetings with my staff by using Zoom and we continually stressed reaching out to all of our students, guiding them as they continue using the online platform most of our classes are under.
“We worked to best fit the needs of each student. In other words, if a student needed help at 8 in the morning, or 10 at night, we would meet their needs. Much of this communication was done by setting up Zoom meetings. All testing was done by Zoom, and we monitored students while they were testing,” he continued.
“Our child care provider, Julie Doherty, created little packets of materials and mailed these to the children who were coming to the Academy. This provided a greater opportunity for parents to learn while students were busy with their things.
“All of this required much more work and time for the staff, but everyone stepped up wonderfully and what could have been a real struggle became very good success, not only for our graduates but for all students enrolled.”