Students who sometimes work for years to receive their high school equivalency credential have different stories to tell about their educational journey.
But as the men and women who walked to the podium to accept their certificates on Tuesday, one unifying theme that emerged when they spoke was how their drive to earn a degree ultimately triumphed over obstacles in their lives.
PHOTOS: Glendale Community College Graduation Ceremony
At the ceremony, held on Glendale Community College’s Garfield campus, four students earned high school diplomas by recovering credits they lost after dropping out of high school somewhat recently.
Nearly 50 other students earned a General Educational Development certificate, known as a GED, after either dropping out of high school long ago or earning a college degree in their home country.
It took La Crescenta resident Humberto Perez six years to earn his GED, but the 74-year-old said the effort was worth it. Perez dropped out of high school and spent his entire working life in the restaurant industry. When he retired, he decided to go back to school.
As he addressed fellow graduates, he choked back tears.
“I’m going to continue to educate myself,” he said. “I want to be a better person.”
Michael Oscal, 35, recalled how he grew up in a home with a father who was an alcoholic. When his mother filed for divorce, she left Oscal with his father. By the eighth grade, he dropped out of school and started hanging out with gangs.
During the following years, he was in and out of jail, eventually landing in prison.
He credits a Burbank church for helping set him on a new path, and the educators at Glendale Community College for helping him earn a GED.
“When you have the right people on your side — when you have good family support — you can do it and be successful,” he said.
It’s the 25th year that Glendale Community College has offered a GED program. In that time, the college has awarded certificates to roughly 2,000 students. On average, the college awards 100 GED certificates each year.
Jane DiLuccio, founder of the GED program, is widely known at the college for establishing it with a shoebox full of supplies, working in half of a trailer that was stationed in Glendale High School’s parking lot.
She initially worked part-time, teaching eight students basic skills in math, reading and writing.
DiLuccio retired from the program three years ago, but returned this week to celebrate the recent round of graduates.
“Working in the program is not a job. It’s a calling. It’s a mission,” she told the crowd.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated the author was Tiffany Kelly. That is incorrect. Kelly Corrigan was the writer.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.