Dr. Seuss once wrote that “Like success, failure is many things to many people. With a positive mental attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order and prepare to try again.”
Words to live by, to be certain, and words shared by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock as he delivered the commencement address at Saturday’s High School Equivalency Graduation Ceremony at Miles Community College.
“Everyone in this room made a conscious decision to try again and return to school, complete your GED, and become a contributing member to the economic well-being and growth of the State of Montana, and Montana welcomes you with open arms,” Bullock said in his address. “You may have had different circumstances and reasons that led you to that decision, but you are all on a path to move forward, and I have no doubt that you will succeed in whatever career you decide to pursue.”
Bullock was joined by Margaret Bowles, Adult Literacy and Basic Education Director at the Office of Public Instruction, who provided the opening remarks.
“It was such a pleasure and an honor to have Gov. Bullock join us as our speaker,” said Erin Niedge, MCC Dean of Enrollment Management and Educational Support Services. “We know that the governor is committed to education, and to the difference that it can make in the lives of individuals and the future of our community and the state. The high school equivalency credential is just a launching pad for these students to go on and further their lives and careers through additional education and training.”
MCC President Stacy Klippenstein said it was a great event for the students and their families, and was proud of the effort the graduates put into making a better future for themselves a reality.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into someone making the decision to come back at a later point and achieve this,” Klippenstein said. “It’s a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment. This was a great day for them and their families. These people worked hard, and the ceremony was a way to celebrate them, and the families loved it.”
Twenty-four students participated in MCC’s high school equivalency program during the 2013-2014 school year, with some completing the GED and others completing the HiSET, which is the new high school equivalency exam that Montana began using in January.
“Both are very difficult tests,” Niedge said. “These students have worked very hard, and have persisted and remained determined despite the challenges they have faced. Our staff is certainly very proud of them, and believe the community should be proud of them as well. Though not all of our graduates could be here to participate in the ceremony, we want to recognize them all for choosing to invest in themselves and their education.”
Gov. Bullock said he was honored to be a part of such an important day for the graduates, and praised MCC for its dedication to its students. Having only committed to a limited number of graduations this year, the governor said meeting the graduates and their families made the trip to Miles City worthwhile.
“Talking to a number of the students and their parents and their grandparents, this is a big deal,” he said. “It’s a big deal for them, but it was a gift for me to get to share that time with them.”
Bullock went on to say those entering the work force with a high school diploma or an equivalent impacts the state in positive ways, from having a leg up with a potential employer, to joining one of the best-educated workforces in the country. Currently 96 percent of the labor force in Montana has a high school diploma or higher.
“Having that diploma also opens doors and creates additional options,” he said. “The average high school graduate makes, on average, $6,361 more per year than those without a diploma. There are a lot of obstacles that get thrown in everyone’s life, but the sense of pride and completion of going back and getting that degree is tremendous, and will open doors not only in the workforce but also doors into additional classes at MCC and other institutes of higher education.”
Nicole Bastian is one of those graduates making the transition into college, pursuing a business administration degree at MCC. Leery at first of the time commitment required for the equivalency program, she was pleased to notice when it came time to take the tests the information proved to be applicable.
“The tests themselves were very relevant,” she explained. “It was stuff that I could actually see using, it was useful for me to know how to do this. I didn’t get that feeling out of high school very much at all. I thought it was a good program.”
As for the graduation ceremony, Bastian said MCC put a lot of effort into making the event a special one for all involved.
“It was a very thoughtful ceremony, and I’m very appreciative they made a big deal out of it,” she said. “I dropped out of school when I was 16, and I remember when my class graduated, people made a big deal out of these kids and what they had accomplished, and I felt left out. The ceremony at MCC really made up for it.”
For anyone struggling with the decision to pursue a high school equivalency degree, Bastian said the payoff far exceeds the amount of work required to get it.
“A lot of the material on the tests is stuff you have to know in order to work just about anywhere,” she said. “The payoff is so much greater than the sacrifice. Even if there are issues such as a learning disability or family issues, the ladies at the center are more than willing to help you figure out how to get the prerequisites done so you can take the tests. They are so willing to work with you that honestly, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to look into it.”
Justice B. Aguirre
Nicole R. Bastian
Torri K. Bell
Heather G. Brown
Arlin Marie Dannen
Kaitlyn M. Falvey
Mary E. Ferre
Hannah Laken Ferguson
Opal M. Hill
Rose M. Miller
Colton Daniel Nielsen
Janice Ella Reagor
David Daniel Rohr
Hayle L. Stevenson
Quentin O. Teig