The Metro North Adult Basic Education (ABE) class of 2012 took the next step into the future and received their General Education Development (GED) diplomas and adult diplomas at a graduation ceremony at Anoka High School June 6.
Friends, family and ABE staff and volunteers cheered as 71 students received their diplomas, each one with a different story of why they decided to return to school and get their degree.
“Every single one of you has set a goal and every one of you has met that goal,” St. Francis School District Superintendent Ed Saxton told graduates.
Saxton encouraged graduates with the story of his father, who had dropped out of high school, joined the Navy for 20 years and then went back to get his GED. He later went on to work at several businesses, and then returned to vocational school and opened a printing business. He later managed a horse farm before retirement.
“He never stopped learning,” Saxton said. “This is the group where I would like to see where you are in 10 years.”
ABE Program Assistant Manager Pat Adams congratulated students on learning and expressing true determination. She also thanked students for the effect they have on the staff and volunteers.
“You showed true determination and persistence for what sometimes seemed a difficult load,” Adams said. “You managed everything from childcare to transportation.”
ABE awarded the Bob Sorman Scholarship to Daniel Hernandez in absentia and awarded the Karen Hoppe Scholarship to Jessica Anderson.
Bob Sorman is a current volunteer with ABE, and the scholarship is awarded to an adult learner through application selection who demonstrated outstanding personal progress or improvement, a dedication to hard work and post-secondary education plans.
The Karen Hoppe Scholarship was established this year in memory of Karen Hoppe, who was an ABE volunteer for nearly 20 years. The scholarship is used to help finance further education in the recipient’s field of study and is awarded to a student who has shown personal commitment and academic excellence.
ABE graduates were given the opportunity to speak at graduation. Students Jessica Anderson, Violet Burtson, Daniel Paul Larsen, Jason Lee and Jane Onyinge all addressed their fellow graduates and thanked audience members for their impact.
Burtson received her GED diploma at the ceremony at the age of 75.
“You are never too old to learn… I’m glad I live in America where I got to finish my high school degree,” Burtson said.
Burtson’s family members expressed their pride in Burtson’s achievement.
“We’re all so excited for her… she’s been to all the kids’ graduations, it’s so great to go to hers,” Burtson’s daughter Debra Nelson said.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d be helping grandma with geometry,” Burtson’s granddaughter Sabrina Nelson said.
Blaine Learning Lab student Daniel Paul Larsen thanked ABE for bringing him back to where he left off 11 years ago.
Larsen said he had been forced to drop out of school and work at a car wash in the middle of his junior year of high school. He thanked ABE for helping him receive his diploma and achieve better study habits.
“Life is too short. Plan or plan to fail,” Larsen said.
Onyinge encouraged fellow graduates and audience members with the message that each graduate now knew to be true: “For those who want to try, it is never too late.”
The community education departments of the Anoka-Hennepin, Brooklyn Center, Centennial, Columbia Heights, Elk River, Forest Lake, Fridley, Spring Lake Park and St. Francis school districts make up the Metro North ABE consortium. Metro North ABE offers programs in receiving a GED or adult diploma, as well as programs in basic reading, writing and math, English as a second language, citizenship and workplace education. Each year over 5,000 adult learners attend Metro North ABE programs.
Bethany Kemming is at