ASHEVILLE – A-B Tech had one of its most special graduation ceremonies on June 8 as the 2022-23 High School Equivalency (HSE) graduates received their diplomas before a packed auditorium of friends and family. A-B Tech had 124 HSE graduates this year and 34 walked in the ceremony.
A-B Tech President John Gossett said the HSE graduation is his favorite ceremony because the graduates "have changed the trajectory of their lives through perseverance, hard work, and dedication."
Commencement speaker Scott Rogers, executive director of Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM), told students their investment in themselves and their futures "will pay huge dividends that will keep on giving. You can take care of yourselves and your families and you can take care of business ... you are positioned to rise up and start climbing that career ladder and achieve your potential."
Student speakers were Justin Huskey, Rebekah Shelton, Jeremy Meyer, Katherine Staton, and Juanita Masters. Each student spoke about their journey to completing high school as an adult and overcoming obstacles and challenges along the way.
"I overcame addiction and started in a new direction," Huskey said. "I avoided jail and had a probation officer who is as responsible as anyone for my being here today. I've been to the bottom and had to climb out. Whatever we want is out there."
Shelton said, "Life isn't meant to be easy and each of us had to make a decision to start over." Meyer credited his family with pushing him to get a GED for many years but said he resisted. "Now I'm in a much better position to create a bright future."
Staton said she couldn't have imagined being a graduate a year ago but credited her success to "the spirit each of my teachers brought to the classroom."
Masters said she awoke on July 4 of last year and told her wife she was going to finish high school, which seemed far-fetched 18 years after dropping out. But she scored well enough on her test to enroll at A-B Tech and begin pursuing her college degree before completing the GED.
Masters, Meyer and Toby Hensley also received $1,200 scholarships from the Jack & Carolyn Ferguson Endowed GED Bridge Scholarship Fund, presented by A-B Tech College Advancement Executive Director Amanda Edwards. The scholarships are awarded to first-year A-B Tech students who have completed the HSE program. Its purpose is to help students transition from HSE into a two-year academic degree program.
Also among the graduates were a mother and son, Rena Grubby and Richard Grubby Jr.
A-B Tech Board of Trustees member Judy Lewis attended the ceremony and said it is one of her favorite events because she once taught English in the program.
Standing quietly in the rear of the auditorium, watching the HSE graduates with pride, was Ron Layne, A-B Tech's Dean of Wellness, Hospitality, and Public Service. Layne knows their journey well, having once completed the HSE program, then graduating from A-B Tech and earning his bachelor's and master's degrees before returning to teach and eventually becoming a dean.
Transitional Studies Director Rebecca Loli, HSE Chief Examiner Carol Sedgwick, and their instructors organized and presided over the ceremony. Also recognized were graduates of the Adult High School at Goodwill Access Center.
About A-B Tech
Founded in 1959 in the heart of Asheville, A-B Tech is the largest higher education institution in Western North Carolina, serving approximately 23,000 students a year in Buncombe and Madison counties. One of 58 community colleges in the NC Community College System, A-B Tech offers 190 degrees, diplomas and certificates, as well as a wide range of workforce training and continuing education programs. A-B Tech includes the main Asheville campus, A-B Tech Enka (home of the A-B Tech Small Business Center and Business Incubation Program, Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast and N.C. BioNetwork), A-B Tech Madison, A-B Tech Woodfin, the Goodwill Center and the ABCCM Transformation Village in West Asheville, and a future location at Biltmore Park West. Learn more at abtech.edu.