Haywood Community College


Contacts: Debra M. Davis, Diana S. Conard

185 Freedlander Drive

Clyde, NC 28721

828-627-4521 Fax: 828-627-1218

Date: 2-16-07

For immediate release.

For Many, GED Holds the Key to a Better Future

For Juan Pena Mejia, completing requirements for a GED at Haywood Community College was the first step in continuing his education. After graduation from the GED program, Mejia plans to start curriculum classes at HCC in the summer.

“Going through the GED program made me more confident about continuing my education,” Mejia says. “I dropped out of high school over eight years ago and it was a challenge to go back to the classroom and start homework again. My incentive was my wife who will finish UNCA in May.”

Mejia grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to Haywood County for his wife to attend school here. He is a self-taught artist who grew up around art in Mexico. His work was recently on display at Gallery 86 in Waynesville. He was awarded a $500 scholarship as a finalist in Haywood County Arts Council’s Beaty Merit Scholarship.

Mejia enjoys everything about painting. “It is relaxing. It’s magical how you can create an image that pops out in your head and put it on canvas. It is wonderful.”

Mejia’s ultimate goal is to retire and spend as much time as he wants painting. But for now, he is ready for the next step onto college.

“I would like to thank the program at HCC for the opportunity to advance my education,” he says. “The GED program is for everyone. The flexible hours fit perfectly in my schedule. It’s available for anyone who wants to take advantage of it.”

Like Mejia, Matt Gernandt found HCC’s Adult High School program the perfect step to take to continue his education at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. He is also an artist who hopes to one day show his work in galleries around the nation.

Jarod Field has a wife and four kids. He knew that without a GED, he could not get a job that pays well. “Going through the program widens my options in life,” he explains. “Now I can go to college and pursue my dream of becoming a physical education teacher.”

At the recent ceremony, fifty-six students received a GED, 11 students finished the Gateway Recovery Program and16 received Adult High School diplomas.

Recognition of staff at the event paid a tribute to HCC compensatory education specialist Connie Liter who passed away in August 2006 after a long battle with lung cancer.

Community partnership awards were presented to graduates for their outstanding effort and achievement. Vocational Rehabilitation of North Carolina recognized AHS graduate Isaac Raulerson and the WIA Youth Program recognized Gateway graduate Tyalee Sharp.

Keynote speaker for the ceremony was Donna Forga, Waynesville attorney and 1991 graduate of the Business Administration program at HCC. She continued her education at UNCA where she received a Bachelor’s degree in 1995. She then finished law school at Chapel Hill in 2000. “We’re all in a well of life with our burdens like a big rock,” Forga told the graduates. “We have two choices, hold onto them and drown or stand on them to keep your head above the water.”

GED graduate Danielle Moore has already decided to keep her head above water. The mother of three completed the requirements for a GED after four years of working toward it. “I got my GED because people never gave up on me—my husband, my family, my kids, and my teachers. I decided I wasn’t going to let my kids have a mom with no education.”

HCC’s Adult High School Program graduated its first class in 2002. AHS meets at the Hazelwood Job Annex Site. Since 1970, the HCC GED program has graduated over 4400 students. New this year, the Gateway Recovery Program is designed to help high school students recover or earn credits after they’ve left high school for a variety of reasons, such as absences. After recovering these credits, these students are often able to receive a public school diploma.

For additional information about obtaining a GED or HCC’s AHS or Gateway Recovery Program, please call 627-4643.

(Cutline: ) HCC GED graduate, Daniel Moore gets a hug from her middle child, Maliki. She was one of 56 students who received GEDs from HCC in 2006-2007.