As the Orange River Jazz Band played and the graduates marched down the hill to begin the Cobscook Community Learning Center’s (CCLC) Graduation Ceremony, a pair of eagles circled slowly overhead, special witnesses to a special occasion: a celebration for the graduates of four alternative diploma programs in Washington County. Despite the disruptions to education that Migrant Education students face, 100% of the migrant students in Washington County who were eligible to receive their diplomas this year did so.
Eleven students from the Passages and Community Year programs at CCLC and two Migrant Education students received Adult Education diplomas. Eight students enrolled in the Maine High School Equivalency Program (HEP) received either GEDs or Adult Education diplomas.
“You’ve all accomplished a difficult task to earn your diplomas outside of the structure of traditional schools,” Jay Skriletz, Mano en Mano’s Regional Coordinator for the Migrant Education Program, reminded the graduates. “For a variety of reasons you’ve found yourselves providing more self-motivation than you may have thought you possessed. You found yourselves exposed, no longer an invisible part of the stream, just going with the flow. You persevered because you chose to and found your own reasons to achieve. And now here you are.”
Indeed, the importance of communities offering and students finding alternative paths to academic success was the theme of the day, mentioned by nearly all who addressed the gathering. Alan Furth, Director of CCLC observed the individuality of each student and how that informs the path they take. Madonna Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Elder and Representative to the Maine Legislature spoke of the hard won value of their diplomas, “Though education is not always easily achieved, it always remains a treasure.” Tessa Ftorek, Dean Emeritus of Washington County Community College and long time GED examiner talked about the choices and opportunities the graduates now find before them, and Deb Gilmer and Rick Wilson of the Maine High School Equivalency Program talked about the personal growth each student experiences once they make the decision to overcome the obstacles to their high school graduation.
The Cobscook Community Learning Center’s ceremony has one unique feature equally pleasing as the very real joy of all the graduates, and the magnificent presence of the soaring eagles: Family members and friends of the graduates are invited to share their feelings in remarks to individual graduates, the class, or to the audience. Many laughed, some cried, and all were very proud.
Four additional Migrant Education Program students received their diplomas at Calais High School on Sunday, June 3. Lewis Francis from Pleasnt Point will go on to Eastern Maine Community College to study Heavy Equipment and Diesel Mechanics. Thomas Newell from Indian Township will also attend EMMC to enroll in the liberal studies program to better prepare the University of Maine. Selina Mitchell-Lola, and Roger Socobasin are also from Indian Township. Selina will be attending Cosmetology school, and Roger will be entering the workforce in forestry and taking classes next Spring at Washington County Community College.
Finally, on June 8, three Migrant Education students received their diplomas and graduated from Narraguagus High School. Kobby Alvarado will be taking classes at the University of Maine at Machias next Fall as part of a new pilot program established by NHS Guidance Counselor Brittany Ray and UMM-Machias to be more inclusive to English Language Learners. Maria Paniagua received Mano en Mano’s Latino Scholarship this year and will be attending the University of Southern Maine in the Fall. Israel Cruz finished his course work in January and moved to Portland to work but graduated in absentia.
The Maine Migrant Education Program was established by the State Department of Education in 1969.The aim of this project is to identify and recruit migrant children (birth through age 21) throughout the state for educational and support service programs offered by the Maine Migrant Education Program. Migrant children may receive supplementary basic skills instruction, supportive health services, and social service referrals, etc. The Maine Migrant Education Program works closely with other state migrant programs in an effort to provide migrant students with the best possible education and increase the number of migrant students graduating from high school. Mano en Mano works closely with ESCORT, the Maine Migrant Education Program, local educational agencies, and other partners to deliver an innovative array of services to migrant students in Washington County.