Tonight I participated in the 51st graduation of Hamden Adult Education. Last year was a special event as we celebrated not only 50 years of educating adults, but also 50 years of service by our Coordinator, Carl Mungiguerra. This year, though, was something else.
In less than one week, our Director, LuAnn Gallicchio managed to pull off a virtual event that included every facet of our live events. (Minus the cake and cookies, sadly.) With the technical assistance of Rissa Webb and support of our Director of Innovation, Technology and Communications, Karen Kaplan we had more than 60 participants attend the Zoom meeting. Behind the scenes Maria Blue and Doreen Van Horn made sure that the graduates were emailed invites. They even though to order the graduates tassels for the Class of 2020 which the graduate can pick up later, along with their diplomas. And, of course – the staff! I can’t list everyone (well, I could but I’d invariably forget someone and then I’d feel bad!) but this could not have happened without the terrific staff that always goes above and above to make sure students succeed.
Pomp and Circumstance played as the attendees logged on. After LuAnn Gallicchio greeted the group and the National Anthem was played, our speakers shared their remarks.
Superindentent of Schools, Jody Goeler congratulated the graduates with his remarks, uniquely focused on this virtual event. Our Mayor, Curt Balzano Leng joined from his backyard. To make the event even more special, Mayor Leng declared May 21, 2020 Hamden Adult Education Day!
One of the most emotional parts of our graduation cermeonies has always been the Student Speakers. This year was no different. I won’t post their pictures or their names due to privacy issues, but the four women who shared their educational journeys brought tears to my eyes.
Every year (I’m pretty sure for 50 years!), our former English teacher, Mary Mitchell reads a poem she writes specifically for the graduating class. Mary is “old-school” – she does have a computer but doesn’t use it. I don’t even think she has an email address! But, it wouldn’t be a Hamden Adult Education graduation without Mary’s poem. Sharon King, our School Counselor, read the poem while Mary’s picture graced the screen.
Next it was time for the reading of the graduates’ names. Hamden Adult Education offers three avenues to high-school completion. Most people are familiar with what is commonly called “night school”. That is our Credit Diploma Program (CDP). People may even be aware of the GED – the General Education Diploma – where students must pass four extremely difficult tests in the four core subject areas in order to receive their “Equivalency” diploma. Few people are aware of the NEDP – the National External Diploma Program. To receive a high school credential through this route, a person must complete academic activities in eight different modules and an additional individual competency. The student completes the learning independently with the support of a teacher who evaluates the work. The work gets submitted for final evaluation and every answer to every task must be 100% perfect in order to be considered demonstrated.
No matter what route a student chooses, it is quite an accomplishment to finish and be awarded their high school credential. Tonight we celebrated 6 NEDP graduates, 6 GED graduates and 20 CDP graduates.
M. Arthur Perez-Cabello Chairman of the Hamden Board of Education confirmed the candidates and then it was over! It was a little odd, not hearing the roar of the audience and watching the silent clapping of the muted participants, but the sentiment was as strong as ever – CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HAMDEN ADULT EDUCATION CLASS OF 2020!
Following the ceremony, I received several texts. It was clear that the effort made to give these students the recognition they so deserved was totally worth it.
Like everyone else, I hope this virtual ceremony is the only one we ever have and that we will all soon return to actual lives versus “virtual” lives. But, I was not disappointed one bit by tonight’s virtual ceremony. Oh, wait. There is one thing – the staff wasn’t able to hang out at Mary’s house afterwards!!