Adult school hands out 71 hard-earned diplomas

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Rows of graduating students in light-blue caps and gowns listened intently to the speeches at the Burroughs High School gymnasium May 24. Seventy-one adults were about to receive their hard-earned high school diplomas. For many of these students, returning to school was one of the biggest challenges of their lives.

The bleachers were filled with friends and family members. Guest Speaker Jessica Auld, a former Adult School teacher, remembered some of the students now graduating.

“I’m so proud of each one of you and your accomplishments,” Auld said. “Tonight we celebrate the goal you set and you accomplished. Each of us has obstacles that can get in our way. There is not a single person in this room who has had a perfect life.”

She gave examples of Michael Jordan, who did not make his high school basketball team; Oprah Winfrey, who was told she would never be on television; and Albert Einstein, who was thought to be of low intelligence.

“Each of these people reached legendary status, but each failed early on. They set goals and did not stop until they achieved them. They are successful because they failed first. It is OK not to succeed the first time, the second time or even the third time. The important thing is to never give up. C. S. Lewis said, ‘You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.’”

Three student speakers told their stories of difficulties surmounted. Marlesse Edwards, Brianna Gun-nell and Carissima Rockwell spoke movingly about their past lives and about their hopes for their brighter futures.

Christina Scrivner and Kenneth Curnow sang a duet of “The Prayer” by David Foster, their spine-tingling harmonies so beautiful that they earned a spontaneous standing ovation from the entire graduating class.

Members of the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Education were beaming as they presented the diplomas to the students. As soon as the class was pronounced graduated, they threw their caps into the air in triumph.

Moments later, the gym was full of happy people, meeting and greeting and hugging and squealing with joy. Balloons and flowers and huge smiles seemed to be everywhere.

Rockwell shared more of her story after the graduation. Born and reared in Ridgecrest, she dropped out of school as her life went in a different direction. Her son, Jordon Smith, 18, graduated from high school and was on his senior class trip to Disneyland, so couldn’t attend her graduation.

“I’ll never forget how proud I am to see my son graduate. He inspires me! He wants to be a senator and is going for his law degree. He’s going to Cerro Coso Community College first and then to a law school. I really believe he’s going to make it as far as he wants, and we’re right behind him every step of the way.

“He has become more accomplished than I ever hoped for,” said Rockwell. “My whole family has been an inspiration.” She and her husband have been married 28 years.

So how does she feel to finally get her diploma? “It feels unbelievable!” she whooped, arms raised in triumph. “Now I need to go get my associate’s degree, following in the footsteps of my young man. I want to go into business administration, and maybe medical administration, too, probably a dual degree.”

Rockwell’s mother was still attending college at age 68 when she passed away. Her great-grandparents were a count and countess in Hungary who saw both World War I and WWII. “My grandmother was in fourth grade when they had to leave Hungary,” said Rockwell. “She was self-educated.”

Her other set of grandparents, Steve and Dell Etheredge, have been Ridgecrest residents for 67 years, and reared four children here.

Story First Published: 2013-06-12