Forty young people in GED programs at LAYC’s Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers’ sites crossed the stage last month to receive their high school diplomas. Family members, LAYC/MMYC staff, and guest speakers were in attendance during the graduation ceremonies in Silver Spring and Riverdale.
Guest speakers reminded graduates of the work still ahead of them, and encouraged them to continue persevering through challenges and feelings of self-doubt.
Youth and LAYC/MMYC staff speakers emphasized that youth will continue to have a support network. Maryland Montgomery County Conservations Corps graduate Jennifer Echeverria had the opportunity to speak at the Silver Spring Civic Building ceremony.
“No one like us knows what it is to have nothing and still strive,” said Echeverria to her fellow graduates. She continued, “At one point, we thought we had no fruits to give, but we were just late bloomers ready to be watered by the right gardeners.”
In addition to studying and building skills in preparation for their high school equivalency tests, graduates spent weeks developing life skills, learning about time management, and preparing for their next steps to find jobs and enroll in post-secondary programs.
Whether young people leave school or are forced out of school, reconnecting with education can be a challenge. Opportunity youth (youth who are disconnected from school or work) may lose skills or forget some of the knowledge they gained while in school. Additionally, commitments to provide support for a family member may arise, further complicating the path to achieving a high school diploma. For many young people, the outpouring of support from LAYC/MMYC staff, the community, and elected officials made their accomplishment even more memorable.
Special guests from the two ceremonies included Maryland State Senator Malcom Augustine, Maryland State Delegate Joeseline Pena-Melnyk, Maryland State Delegate Darryl Barnes, Prince George’s County Councilmember Calvin Hawkins, Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, Prince George’s County Chief Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Chief of Staff of Prince George’s County Public Schools Christian Rhodes, Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Dr. Alvin Thornton, Prince George’s County Board of Education Member Pamela Boozer-Strothers, and Prince George’s County Board of Education Member Joshua M. Thomas