Pride and excitement flooded Myers Auditorium on Southwestern Community College’s Jackson Campus on July 27 as the newest cohort of High School Equivalency graduates received their GEDs.
Lydia Burke was one such student, who had to put school on hold during her junior year due to family conflicts. Once she was ready to continue her schooling, she got into contact with the HIGHTS program which helped her navigate the best way to receive her GED while working two full-time jobs. In partnership with SCC, HIGHTS helps those that are 16 to 24 years of age with a variety of needs, such as finishing their education.
“The whole process was very easy and worked around my schedule,” said Burke. “Graduating is such a giant sense of accomplishment. It puts out a path for the next steps forward to live the life that I want for myself.”
The HIGHTS program assisted Burke in landing a pharmaceutical internship. Once that is complete, she plans on going back to school to receive her pharmaceutical degree.
Brandon Kamer also has big plans after graduating.
In a speech to his fellow graduates, he shared how being autistic had not held him back from reaching his goal. He gave words of encouragement, and briefly talked about his post-graduation plans.
“At first, I was mostly a negative thinker, but that honorable crew persuaded me to continue retaking high school,” he said, pointing at the other graduates. “Now that that is behind me, my friends and I plan to start a company that spreads awareness about autism. I want everyone, including those with autism, to have a chance to shine and make sure they have their place in the world as well.”
All of the graduates in attendance included: Michelle Standingdeer of Cherokee, Guya Crowe of Cherokee, Anna Conner of Franklin, Jeremiah Richards of Sylva, Tasia Hamilton of Sylva, Katherine Conner of Franklin, Asher Richards of Sylva, Tina Talley of Sylva, Sarah Strickland of Whittier, Mark Halvorson of Sylva, Lydia Burke of Cullowhee and Brandon Kamer of Sylva.