Persistence pays off: 47 COA grads earn diplomas

062218 COA Graduation
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Marina Rosso, who lives on the Outer Banks, receives her high school equivalency diploma from College of The Albemarle President Robert Wynegar during COA's Basic and Transitional Studies graduation ceremony at COA's Performing Arts Center, Wednesday. Among the 47-plus graduates were Rosso and her daughter Louise Schiffer, who completed the high school equivalency diploma program at COA together.

062218 COA Graduation

By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A 2018 graduate of College of The Albemarle’s high school equivalency diploma program told her classmates Wednesday night that the most important trait one can have is persistence.

“It’s OK to fall and fail sometimes as long as you get back up and try again,” McKenzie Umphlett, 18, said at COA’s Basic and Transitional Studies graduation ceremony at the college’s Performing Arts Center. 

Umphlett explained that she entered the program because “public school just wasn’t working” for her, and while homeschooling worked at first she eventually dropped out before enrolling at COA in January.

COA President Robert Wynegar told the more than 47 graduates of the Basic and Transitional Studies program they deserve to feel “a keen sense of pride” in their accomplishments. He also urged the graduates to keep pushing forward. He noted that he himself in high school doubted he would attend college until someone who believed in him convinced him otherwise.

“There will be people in your life who underestimate you — but don’t let yourself be one of them,” Wynegar said.

Wanda Fletcher, COA’s director of the Basic and Transitional Studies program, announced at the ceremony that 52 percent of the members of this year’s graduating class are already enrolled in college.

Fletcher encouraged the graduates to keep learning.

“Please don’t let your journey end here,” Fletcher said.

Among the Basic and Transitional Studies graduates Wednesday were siblings Jamira Earl, 18, and Maurice Jones, 17.

“My mother talked us into it,” Earl said of why the siblings enrolled. “She goes here, too.”

Earl said she likes English and thought all her teachers did a good job. She said she plans to study cosmetology at COA and would eventually like to become a social worker, working with infants.

Jones plans to study engineering at COA.

Marina Rosso and her daughter, Louise Schiffer, who live on the Outer Banks, completed the high school equivalency program together.

“My mom encouraged me to go and then to encourage me even more she went with me,” Schiffer said.

Schiffer plans to continue her studies at COA but hasn’t decided what her major will be. Rosso plans to study business at COA.

Calah Sparrow, 18, of Elizabeth City, the program’s 2018 Academic Excellence Award recipient, said it was her mother who encouraged her to enroll in the high school equivalency program at COA.

“The teachers are really good and really helpful,” said Sparrow, who is originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, but moved to Elizabeth City with her mother.

In addition to all the academic knowledge Sparrow gained through her studies she also learned a priceless life lesson: not to let fear of the unknown stand in the way of a better future.

“The most difficult part was the first time I came here, because I was terrified of what was happening,” Sparrow said. “It was new. I didn’t know what it was.”

A brighter future now beckons to Sparrow as she begins work on an associate in fine arts degree at COA, studying drawing and painting in preparation for a career in visual art.

Kellylynn DiCaro, 17, said she grew up in Missouri but ran away from home. She eventually came to Hertford where she lives with her grandmother. Her grandmother was adamant about her attending school and pushed her to complete the high school equivalency program at COA.

“It’s been the best school experience I have ever had,” DiCaro said.

Aimee Chappell, 18, of Camden, said she learned a great deal in the program.

“I believe that the teachers here are amazing,” Chappell said. “They really care about each and every one of us.”