CBC awards diverse group GEDs (w/ gallery)

PASCO — As Dawn Miller proudly watched her younger sister get her GED credential on Friday night, the 36-year-old Kennewick woman said she expects to be the family member wearing the navy blue cap and gown next year.

And the credit all goes to the Class of 2011 graduate, Laura Miller.

In recent weeks, Laura Miller has been talking to her sister about finishing her course work as she herself prepared to complete her General Education Development credential through Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

On Friday, she joined nearly 140 students who participated in the ceremony before a gymnasium packed with cheering loved ones and friends. CBC awarded GED certificates or high school diplomas to 495 students this past year.

Dawn Miller joined in the festivities with a Mylar balloon for her sister that said, "Congrats Grad!"

"It's a big deal. Let's just say, she's younger than me and she's getting her GED before me," she said. Laura is 29 and of Pasco. "... She didn't want to go back to school even, so she's kind of been my inspiration to go back to school and do it."

Miller said she dropped out of traditional high school and attended an alternative school, before changing direction in life and taking two jobs. She previously tried to get her high school diploma at CBC but couldn't afford staying in the program because she had a son to raise.

But because she only has two classes left, Miller said it's time to make her son proud and be the one standing with other graduates in 2012. She isn't alone in her aspirations.

GED and high school completion graduates are a diverse group -- some have just left school and others have been out for years and decided to further their education to help them in the job market or bring personal satisfaction.

Meg Molton, dean for basic skills, gave special recognition to Sarah Norwood, who got her GED at age 61 after dropping out of high school as a sophomore.

Molton also acknowledged that for some, getting the high school equivalency diploma is a family affair.

"You can imagine what the conversations are like in their home," she said.

The graduates included: husbands and wives Miguel A. Perez and Aida Garcia, and Fabian Torres and Lorena Mejia; and brother and sister Jesus A. Aguirre and Quisela Aguirre.

Todd Tappin, a 2010 GED graduate, spoke about how he was supposed to finish high school in 1987, but with no support system he thought it was more important to find a job.

Before he knew it, Tappin said, he was married and starting a family.

Twenty-three years later, he made it happen, and now is starting his fifth quarter at CBC working toward an Associate in Arts degree.

"Education is vital to an individual. It really makes you a better person ...," he told the class. "We commend you for your dedication and commitment. I encourage you all to keep going forward with your dreams. ... Now the possibilities are endless."

Pinning ceremonies will be held today at 6 p.m. in the Theatre for dental hygiene; 11 a.m. June 18 in the Theatre for radiologic technology; and 2 p.m. June 18 at Art Fuller Auditorium on Kennewick High School's campus for nursing.

CBC's 55th commencement ceremony will be held Friday at 7 p.m. in the Toyota Center in Kennewick. A record 1,157 students will graduate, receiving bachelor and associate degrees and one-year certificates.