When Jennifer Kirby decided to go back to school 13 years after she left before graduating, she was worried and scared.

“I felt almost like a child entering kindergarten,” she said.

Monday night, however, she was one of 36 students who received a general education development diploma (GED) after attending the Adult Education Program at Eastern Kentucky University.

Once she enrolled in EKU’s adult ed program, Kirby said she quickly discovered that “this place is filled with friendly, encouraging people who wanted to help me succeed.”

Kirby now hopes to begin college study at EKU. She was one of three GED recipients to address her graduating class.

EKU President Joanne Glasser also spoke to the graduates along with Madison County Schools Superintendent Mike Caudill and Richmond Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rob Rumpke. “I think I’ve got some pull at EKU,” Glasser said, as she promised Kirby that her application would get sympathetic consideration.

The university’s adult education program is “all about second chances,” Glasser said. “It’s so pleasing to look into your eyes and see hope, intelligence, ambition and character.”

Sara Hernadez, another graduate said she could “now look at my children and say ‘never give up.’”

Earning her GED “makes me respect myself more,” she said. “And I think it makes other people respect me more as well.”

Hernadez said she hopes to continue her education, perhaps by pursing a nursing degree at EKU.

While furthering their education at EKU or elsewhere is an option, Rumpke told the graduates that “There are good jobs waiting for you here in Madison County and in Central Kentucky.”

By earning a GED, “You’ve shown initiative, a quality that employers are looking for,” he said. “Employers are interested in hiring people who want to learn, and you’ve shown that you’re willing to work at learning.”

Rumpke then read names from a list Madison County employers that included industries such as Tokico, Okonite and NAACO and institutions such as Eastern Kentucky University and Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center.

“Learning is the key to earning,” Rumpke said. “You now will have opportunities to earn a better wage and create a better life for you and your families.”

Caudill praised the students for resuming their studies after they were “interrupted.” Caudill recalled how his life was interrupted eight years ago when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He vowed to fight the odds, he said. After undergoing treatment, his disease went into remission. Caudill was then promoted from school principal to school superintendent.

He encouraged the graduates to share their experience with others whose lives have been interrupted. “Let them know there are people here who can and want to help them resume their education.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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