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Their reasons for going back to school differed, but the goal was the same for the 63 adults wearing caps and gowns Thursday — a high school diploma.

One of the reasons Richard Williamson of Brandywine went back to school was to open up more doors so that he could support his 3-year-old daughter.

“There are more job opportunities for people with a high school diploma,” Williamson said.

He said he also wanted to “finish what I started.”

Williamson was one of 226 Maryland residents to receive their diplomas through the Charles County Adult Diploma Programs.

Of the 226 graduates, 63 walked across the stage at North Point High School for the 34th annual ceremony Thursday.

Graduates met the necessary requirements of the GED program or the National External Diploma Program through the Lifelong Learning Center in Waldorf.

Williamson passed the GED program through a new online program offered by the center. Williamson, 34, said he stopped going to school when he was in the 11th grade.

“School wasn’t for me. It was too slow,” he said.

Williamson said he plans to continue his education at the College of Southern Maryland to pursue a career as an electrical engineer.

School also wasn’t for Timothy Slavin, 38, of Upper Marlboro. He was the center’s first online program graduate of the External Diploma Program.

“If you asked me 20 years ago if I ever would go back to school to get my high school diploma, I would have thought ... no way,” Slavin said in his speech Thursday.

He said he left high school in the ninth grade.

“I never thought about college or how education might change my life. I didn’t think it was possible,” he said.

Slavin said he worked in the mechanical trade and at first thought that was enough for him. Recently he decided maybe he would want to take some college classes and maybe work for himself. Before he could do that he said he figured he might need a high school diploma.

He learned of the online program and that it would allow credits for life experience.

“The program seemed like it was tailor-made for me,” he said.

Slavin said not only did he complete the program, but “I came away with tools I needed for the next level.”

Slavin already has started college courses at CSM.

Lloyd Johnson Sr., 53, of Newburg completed the external diploma program, though not through the online program.

Johnson said in his speech Thursday that he was unable to finish high school many years ago when “I became a parent at an early age.”

To support his family he became a carpenter.

He started taking classes again in 2008, and in 2012 he entered the External Diploma Program.

Johnson said he had a lot of family and friend support, and “I achieved my goals one day at a time by being true to myself.”

He said he also promised his mother that he would have his diploma “before she left this Earth.”

Johnson looked into the audience and said, “Thanks, Mom.”

Johnson would like to be a Maryland home inspector and will pursue that goal.

“It’s never too late,” he said.

Doris Dobison, 72, of Waldorf realized it wasn’t too late for her several years ago. She was watching TV and saw an 84-year-old woman receive her college degree from the University of North Carolina.

She said once she saw that an “old lady” could go back and get her degree, “I knew I could.”

Dobison said prior to the ceremony that she dropped out of school at 16 to work and help her mother. After many years of not having any schooling aside from some home-schooling, Dobison entered a program through the Lifelong Learning Center. “I tried to give up one time,” she said, but staff at the center inspired her to continue.

She said she talks about the center and their programs all the time now.

Racheal Howard, 18, of Waldorf took the GED program through the center and passed the test with a score 70 points higher than required.

In her speech Thursday, she said in the past five years she has struggled with addiction, had a child and was “an emotional wreck.”

She said her son was her motivation to get her diploma, and she would like to some day to become a nurse.

“I’ll get there,” she said.



New grads

Charles County Public Schools held its 34th annual Adult Education Program graduation Oct. 24. There were 226 student graduates.

Attending the ceremony were Miranda Jamileth Alfaro, Aubrion Remus Allen Sr., Augusta Marisa Amaro, Brayan Arnoldo Avila, James Michael Bacon, Shalanda Marie Banks, James Donavan Barker, Constance Benfield, Justin Bowie, James Walter Brown, Haskell NicholesCampbell Jr., Markita Carroll, Michelle Noelle Dickerson, Tyshon Dickerson, Brandy Diehl, Doris D. Dobison, Michael Anthony Duckett, Crystal Lee Eberhardt, Wesley Elliott, Nicole Fant, Samantha Farrell, Dayne Fields, Merlita Sanchez Frias, Michelle Joy Gentle, Claudia Beatriz Gutierrez, Candice Nakia Hayes, Mark Andrew Hedges, Catherine Herman, William Herman, George Ramone Howard, Racheal Lynn Howard, Marlena L. Hughes, Lloyd Wayne Johnson Sr., Sharon Patricia Jones, Brenda Diane Lee, Charne Kimble, Kealoha Kimble, Thomas Livers, Tiara J. McAllister, Harold T. McClendon II, Daniel Milam, Rhonda Montgomery, Teresa J. Moore, Rachel Paris, Jimmietta Charlene Radcliff, Justin Randles, Diana Rodriguez-Tapia, Harry Calvin Rosier III, Valrie Salmon-Riley, Mia A. Scott, Thomas Manaole Short, Charlene Shorter, Shanita Cassandra Simms, Timothy Robinson Slavin, Crystal Smith, Meghan Spalding, Sequitta Tolliver, Tammeron Turner, Enrico Nicola Wahl, Kiara Williams, Richard Williamson, Elmer Willix and Amber Young.



gphillips@somdnews.com