GED grads look back with gratitude, look forward to possiblity

Saturday, June 4, 2011 | 7:29 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 6, 2011
Mary Woolery, 53, walks across the stage to receive her GED diploma after graduating from the Columbia Area Career Center's Adult Learning Center GED program. Woolery is pictured being congratulated by John McClure, coordinator of the Adult Education and Literacy program.

COLUMBIA — The GED graduation Saturday at Jesse Auditorium was the Adult Learning Center's fifth and its largest yet.

About 300 people gathered in the auditorium to honor 49 GED recipients and 10 students who were inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society.

After Christine Burton walked across the stage, she said that she wasn't sure about her next step, but that she was seriously considering continuing her education.

“I’ll be 40 in two weeks, and I’m just starting to live,” Burton said. “It’s a new beginning.”

“She did it,” said Burton's daughter, Amber, 17. “I knew she could. Even though she didn’t believe in herself, I believed in her.”

Getting her GED was frustrating at times, Burton said. 

“I hated algebra,” she said, laughing. "There were times that I wanted to give up. But I was bound and determined that I wanted to make my kids proud.”

Burton has three children and one grandchild. 

She said that in addition to her family's support, help from her teacher Sue Fennewald played an important role in her success. 

“I wouldn’t be here,” Burton said, fighting back tears. “I wouldn’t be here without her. She’s awesome.”

Christopher Marks also credited Fennewald with his success in the program.

“My teacher Sue, she wouldn’t let me give up, as much as I hated doing math,” Marks said.

Marks was sent to a drug court three years ago where he was encouraged to pursue his GED.  

“I didn’t think I’d ever get this,” Marks said. “But one day that envelope came.”

The diploma opens new doors, he said. One of his goals is to attend truck driving school, and the GED allowed him that possibility.

"He’s come a long way," said his wife, April Marks. "He went back to school; we’ve made a new life, a new family and new beginnings. I just pray that other people out there can accomplish these same goals.”

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