There is a touch of irony every time Clermont Northeastern High School celebrates a commencement ceremony for graduates of its Adult 22-Plus program.
Over the years, many of the graduates have talked about how math was their most challenging subject, but everyone has contributed to an ever-growing total of numbers that exceeds the goals of a program that began in 2017. The 31 members of the most recent class, many of whom received their high school diplomas Jan. 24 at Norlyn Manor in Batavia, bring the total to 282.
Program coordinator Bob Havrilla said the most recent class earned 231 high school credits and passed 70 state tests.
Behind each of those numbers though, is an individual story.
Kandie Grooms and Meredith Fuller were on a virtual call together, for their work-at-home jobs, when Grooms mentioned the program.
“(She said) I’m going back to get my diploma. So that’s kind of how this started. I had no idea it was like seven miles down the street from my house,” Fuller, 43 (she turns 44 in February) and a Batavia resident, said. Grooms learned about the class from a relative of Havrilla. She dropped out of Amelia High School at age 15 when she became pregnant, and had been taking GED classes, but had to quit them when her husband got hurt at work. Grooms completed seven credits in four months, attending class at least twice a week over that time span.
Becoming a Clermont Northeastern graduate helped set an example for her children, Grooms said.
“It means the world just to have that diploma and be able to say I did it,” the Mount Orab resident said. “My kids are homeschooled. And one of them thought, ‘Well, I don’t really want to finish school,’ and I said, ‘Well, you can do it. Mom can do it. You can do it.’”
Grooms said she hopes to pursue a nursing job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Fuller had to leave Campbell County High School after a series of illnesses forced her to miss 98 days of her freshman year, as she was in and out of hospitals and intensive care units.
“I continued to do my schoolwork and even though I carried good grades they had to fail me because of my absence,” the Batavia resident said. “So in the midst of that my family moved out to … Brown County, and they put me in homeschooling. And we didn’t have any WiFi service. I had no means of having help with schoolwork. So I kind of gave up on homeschooling and just got into the work field and put this on the back burner.”
She decided to return because lack of a high school degree had held her back at work (she has been a waitress, and also got involved with network marketing in 2016); she was unable to get promotions or improve her pay, but also for a reason similar to Grooms: her youngest son graduates high school this year.
Fuller said she decided to go “all-in” with the program.
“Two years ago I made a promise to myself, but also out loud in front of some friends, that was going to finish school before my youngest, Justyn, graduates high school,” she said. “I made it a point to be at school every second that Bob had the doors open. If the lights were on and he was an hour early, I was in there too. And I just committed to myself and put everything I had into it and thank goodness that my job … allowed my schedule to do that,” she said.
It took Fuller about three months to complete her requirements and, like so many others, she said math was the most difficult subject. She broke up when asked about the significance of the evening.
“Oh, my gosh … yes, that’s huge,’ she said, her voice cracking.
“I got to wear that cap and gown, cross the stage and graduate with friends … just like I had always imagined it should be. Holding my diploma in my hands is huge for me. The since of accomplishment is greater than anything I have done so far because it gave me the chance to show my kids that no matter what, they can do anything they put their mind to!”
Tim Lykins grew up in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and attended Roger Bacon High School before dropping out after his freshman year when he became a father.
“I worked in the factory all my life. I’ve never been able to go into a different field or anything because everybody wanted a high school diploma or a GED,” Lykins said.
Circumstances, and the economy, then forced his hand. he was working at the OneTouch Point printing facility near Union Terminal, when the plant closed. he stayed on for three months to help clear the building, load trucks and dismantle machines.
“And after that I told myself, you know, I don’t have a job now. I’ve always wanted my diploma. It’s the biggest regret in my whole life. So now it’s my time and I heard about Bob’s program and said I want to do it,” Lykins, 57, said.
The Williamsburg resident attended class in the Adult 22-Plus at the CNE Preschool in Owensville, three hours a day, three days a week, for three months. “Bob made it real easy. When I stopped in the class and to ask about the program, he told me to sit down and he got me a pencil when I was doing a test and he told me what days to be there. He didn’t give me the option. He just put me right to it. And I was grateful for that,” Lykins said.
Lykins owns Bethel Car Wash, and is also looking into other job leads. He has also set a standard for his grandchildren.
“I’m just glad to be able to do it because I have three children of my own, I’ve got seven grandchildren, and I’m one of the first in my family to graduate. My three children have all graduated. And I just want the grandchildren … I want to set an example.”
University of Cincinnati Clermont Dean Jeff Bauer was the featured speaker at the ceremony; he praised the program and the graduates, sharing the message that they are just getting started, and if they dream big, there are plenty of opportunities – including furthering their education in college.
“I know the graduating group varies in age by a fair amount. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t still find their passion in the world,” Bauer said. “So if they’re looking for a short-term credential or certificate, we can do that up to and including a baccalaureate degree. So if they just want to dip their toe in they can; if they want to go full force all the way into additional education. That’s their option.”
Any adult who did not complete high school or earn a GED, lives in Ohio, and is over 22 years of age is eligible to enroll, regardless of school district. The flexibility of the program allows adults to work from home or with our caring and compassionate staff.
Anyone interested in the Adult 22-Plus program can contact [email protected] or 513-625-1211 Extension 350, with any questions.
Clermont Northeastern High School Adult 22-Plus January 2023 graduates
Angie Anglin, Taylor G. Bahrakis, Sally Brusman, Tiffany Cook, Jessica A. Davis, Meredith, Gayle Fuller, Jena-Marie Goodwin, Kandie Michele Grooms, Chandler Jackson Hamilton, Christian F. Helbling, Mario Huerta-Cordero, Sydney Louise Jump, Justin Andrew Kirby, Timothy D. Lykins Sr., Tracy Lynn Mues, Angel Kristine Nesbitt, Jessica Sue Pelfrey, Michele, Suzanne Pennington, Daniel Lee Ratliff, Destiny Cheyenne Redkey, DeSha Reid, Ann Pyles Scott, Allison Elizabeth Starrett, Christen Marie Stephenson, Amy Jo Sunday, Robin Sunday, Tonya Terry, Hailey Elizabeth Walker, Arnetta C. Williams, Baylee Michael Williams, Cheryl Lynn Wood.