“Each Exalted Triumph:” Nine Midcoast Adult and Community Education Graduates
In her speech at the Midcoast Adult and Community Education graduation ceremony at Medomak Valley High School on Thursday, June 9, graduate Austen Brewer called COVID-19 a “massive curveball.” He was a junior when the world stopped and he said he spent the next two years “kind of letting go of the idea of school”.
“COVID has changed the way we learn, changed high school life,” he said. “People have become more distant, social life has practically disappeared. For me, it just felt like it was more stressful and unnecessary to show up to class twice a week.
Brewer went to work instead. “It went well. First.” However, he soon realized that without an education, he could not move forward with the career goals he had set for himself.
Brewer credited the adult education teachers and support staff who he says always greeted him with respect, encouraged him and pushed him further than he thought he could go.
He thanked Kayla Sikora, director of Midcoast Adult and Community Education, for helping not only him, but all of the students. Citing the “hours of conversations” they shared, he said Sikora cared as much about the students as they did about their hopes and dreams.
“She never let me down,” Brewer said. “It’s big in this world.”
After Brewer’s speech, instructional technician Kali Martin read a speech by graduate Gabrielle Keene, holding the student’s hand the entire time.
“I don’t want to make a bloody story out of this, but my life has never been easy,” Keene’s speech began. “I’m alive today because I almost died yesterday.”
Keene survived a rollover on Route 1 in 2019 when she was 17. She was taken by LifeFlight to the hospital and, according to Sikora, it was uncertain whether she would ever walk again.
“It’s huge that she’s still alive,” Sikora said.
According to Keene, the accident gave him his toughest challenge yet and “it will follow me to the day I die”.
“Every triumph has been exalted and every calamity has been grievous,” Keene said. “But no matter how disadvantageous it was, it saved me.”
Keene said she got a second chance at everything: life, school, family.
“I have no other way to express my gratitude for living than living,” she said.
Sikora said the Class of 2022 has seen a lot of young adults joining the program.
“This year the students were a little better prepared,” she said. “They had already received a good education” from teachers in a traditional secondary school setting. COVID-19 interrupted their education and for some affected their ability to return to the traditional path.
This year’s class is ages 16-21. Two students are 16 and cannot test their diploma until they turn 17 this summer. These students will actually graduate a year earlier than if they had taken the traditional program.
Sikora said she would like to see the path required for her students change. From now on, students must officially drop out of high school to be accepted into the adult education program. Sikora wants its students to have the option of transferring into the program instead so that there is no strike action against the student or the school.
She is excited about the recently announced Free Community College Scholarship Program which offers a full path to Maine high school graduates in the classes of 2020-2023. There are no income or age limits, and the scholarship pays for up to two years of tuition.
The program was proposed in February 2022, and a supplementary budget including $20 million in scholarships was signed by Maine Governor Janet Mills in April.
According to the proposal, about 8,000 young people in Maine are expected to benefit from the program, earn significantly more money over the course of their careers than high school graduates, and enter the workforce with high-value credentials in high-demand areas. .
The program, which is available at seven community colleges across the state, is also available to HiSET graduates and Sikora said several of its students “certainly plan to take advantage of (the opportunity).”
“It’s truly amazing that HiSET students are included,” she said, noting that students who pursue alternative pathways to graduation have been overlooked or excluded from beneficial programs in the past.
Sikora is currently doing research for her doctorate on why students who do not succeed in traditional high school succeed in adult education.
“There are several paths to high school completion,” she said.