MICHIGAN CITY – Administrators, staff, School Board members, families and friends cheered on adult graduates from across La Porte County as they gathered Wednesday to celebrate the achievement of an important milestone: a high school diploma.

Sixty-eight of the 116 adults who had earned High School Equivalency diplomas during the 2018-19 school year opted to participate in the ceremony at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center in Michigan City.

Keynote speaker Adrinne Leaner, now an instructional assistant for the program, spoke to the ceremony’s theme, a quote by Flavia Weedn: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”

Leaner, who was named Indiana’s Instructional Assistant of the Year in 2017 by the Association for Adult and Continuing Education, shared her personal journey, which included struggles with depression and anxiety. Despite her challenges, she earned her GED and went on to earn a college degree, as well.

She encouraged graduates to see their “broken pieces” as simply part of a 1,000-piece puzzle, which with patience and focus soon begins to form one clear image.

Student speakers at the ceremony included graduates Beatriz Gutierrez, James Brandon, Veronica Pyplatz, Jodie Davis and Damon Konetski, who all shared testimonials and words of encouragement.

“I’m living proof that it’s never too late,” said Gutierrez, a 31-year-old single mother.

Brandon praised Work One and the TRIO program, which prompted him not only to pursue his high school diploma, but helped him navigate the college admissions process. “I’m now going to college, something I’d never thought I’d do,” he said.

Pyplatz explained that she decided to return to school after attempting to help her own middle-school-age daughter with homework.

“I couldn’t help her answer the questions,” she said. “I knew I needed to go back to get my diploma, not for myself, but for her.”

Davis, who is a mother of four, said her children also inspired her to pursue her degree.

“I didn’t think I’d ever go back. But without education, you won’t go anywhere in this world.” Speaking to the entire audience, she said, “If there’s anybody here who is questioning whether you can do it, you can. If I can do it, you can do it, too.”

Konetski focused on the next step.

“It doesn’t stop here,” he said. “I used to think I was going to stop with my GED. But this opens so many doors. We did this! Whatever you want to do – proceed and progress. We just made the impossible possible.”

Michigan City Area Schools Board vice president Marty Corley told graduates he looks up to them.

“This is not easy, with jobs, families, and children. You still made education a priority, and you are an inspiration to me.” He concluded his remarks by reading the poem, “Do It Anyway” by Mother Theresa.

Michigan City Area Schools administers the La Porte County Adult Education program. Diplomas at the ceremony were conferred by MCAS Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins, along with Corley and fellow School Board members Deb Chubb, Tom Dombkowski and Theresa Edwards.

Audra Peterson, Director of CTE and Adult Education, presided over the event, assisted by Justin Biggs, assistant principal; Wendel McCollum, MCAS associate superintendent; and Cathy Bildhauser, MCAS director of curriculum.

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