Gayle Manchin delivers keynote speech at GED ceremony

PARKERSBURG – Those who received their GED diplomas took responsibility for their lives and decided to make a change for the better, the state’s former first lady told a crowd of graduates and their families Tuesday night during a graduation ceremony at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Gayle Manchin, wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the keynote speaker Tuesday for the Wood County Schools Adult Recognition Ceremony, where about 70 people received their GED diplomas.

During the 2012-13 school year, 549 adult students took part in educational programs, said Doug Kiger, director of Technology and Adult Education for Wood County Schools.

Of the 226 students who took the GED test, around 178 passed all five parts of the test.

”There is a very large percent of the students graduating from high school this week who could not pass the test that you have passed for this honor tonight,” Kiger said.

Kiger spoke of the reasons why people decided to return to get their GED and the people who supported them in their journey.

”This is a second opportunity,” he said. ”There are a lot of people who helped make sure this day happened.”

Ages of graduates have ranged from 16 years old to 72 years old with the average age of most students in the mid-20s, said Bruce Goody, GED examiner.

Students enroll in GED programs for many reasons, Manchin said. Many are looking to update their job skills while others were not able to originally finish high school for any number of reasons, but want to come back now to finish what they started, to improve their lives.

”I believe the key word here is ‘reason,”’ she said. ”For most of us if we have a reason for doing something, we are much more likely to do it and do it well.”

Manchin pointed out the alarming statistics of students who drop out of high school and a number of students who gave up learning around the third grade, regardless of how long they may have remained in school.

”You may have been one of those students, one of those who didn’t respond to the typical school setting,” she said. ”One of the most important lessons we can learn in life is we have to accept responsibility; we have to be responsible for all of the choices we have made in life – the bad ones, the good ones and the ones that may change our lives forever.

”One of the choices you made is you took responsibility and chose to come to the GED program.”

In many cases, friends and family helped to make sure their loved one reached this point.

”I ask you to look around you and reflect on the sacrifices that both you and your friends and family made that enabled and empowered you to be here tonight,” Manchin said.

The students in the GED program looked at where they were, what they wanted to accomplish and how they were going to get there.

”You have a sense of direction about who you are and where you are going,” Manchin said. ”Each of you has found relevance in academics; you have found the reason and it has contributed to your world.

”Maybe for the first time in your life, learning has become meaningful.”

People with a high school diploma or the GED are likely to earn $7,400 a year more than those who don’t graduate from high school. Continuing education could increase that amount.

”You all found the reason to be here and we are all so very proud of you,” Manchin said. ”This will provide you a beginning of what you can be.

”You are taking ownership of your educational growth and continued development through what will be a lifelong learning experience.”