A crowd of hundreds of family members and friends stood up to honor over 50 Western Connecticut Adult & Continuing Education (WERACE) graduates as they walked down the steps of the WCSU Visual & Performing Arts Center during their commencement processional.
Led by Mr. Terence Cunningham, WERACE regional director, the ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by graduating student Alexis Gomez, followed by Danbury Mayor Mark D. Boughton’s welcome greetings.
“This could be a difficult role to live in, and probably on a daily basis, all of us in this room in one way or another have been told that you can’t do something,” said the mayor. “And tonight, you are telling all of us, the entire city of Danbury, that you CAN do something.”
“And this is just the beginning of a start of another phase of your life. This is the beginning of where you are going; you are at the foot of the path in front of the trail. Tonight, I want to challenge you to do something extraordinary with your lives. Do something out of the ordinary, help someone in need, become part of the community in a very important way and make a difference in the people around you. It’s an exciting night because tonight, you can!”
Vibes of inspiration were sustained as graduates humbly shared their stories of struggle to complete their high school degree.
“There was a period in my life when I thought I could never make it this far. No matter how many obstacles I face, I will not let them get in the way of reaching my goals. I will no longer make excuses. I will no longer quit when it gets rough,” said graduate Ryan Bepko, who enrolled in the military while attending the program.
Graduate Katherine Downer shared her struggles with depression, dropping out of public school at 17, and her determination to focus on a promising future after joining the program: “I now finish this program with a completely different mindset. I currently have a job and I have a healthy relationship with my family. I am truly honored to be standing here today, feeling revived, happy and very thankful to this program.”
Nayara Silva, a Brazilian student, was grateful for the compassion, dedication and determination of the teachers. “Thank you to each one of you for pushing me hard to finish the program. It may take me a little longer, but I will go to college,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Guidance counselors Dr. Joanne Brogis and Gianfranco Broccolo presented the High School Credit diplomas to 46 students. Several were also presented with cash awards. Eight students received a GED High School Completion diploma, and two students, Jose Espinal and Maria Irene Giraldo, received Citizenship certificates.
The graduation commencement of the WERACE class of 2017 concluded with light refreshments served immediately following the ceremony.
It is a regional program that provides free, state-mandated adult education services to adults 16 years of age and older who live in the towns of Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield.
For more information, visit http://www.danbury.k12.ct.us. More photos of the 2017 graduation available at www.Tribunact.com.