COA graduates 53 in basic skills

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David Meads (right) receives his high school equivalency diploma from College of The Albemarle President Robert Wynegar during the commencement ceremony for graduates of COA’s high school equivalency and adult high school programs at COA’s Performing Arts Center in Elizabeth City, Wednesday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The 53 graduates of the high school equivalency and adult high school programs at College of The Albemarle are looking to next steps such as college and military service.

“As you walk across the stage today, hold your head high,” COA President Robert Wynegar told them during the Basic and Transitional Studies Graduation Wednesday in the Performing Arts Center on COA’s main campus in Elizabeth City.

Wanda Fletcher, director of basic and transitional studies at COA, said the event was a celebration of the graduates’ hard work, dedication and accomplishments. She noted that many have already enrolled in college.

“I congratulate all of you and wish you much success in the future,” Fletcher said.

The Academic Excellence Award was presented to Tyrrell Armstead. Faculty described him as talented in both art and writing.

Althea Riddick, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at Elizabeth City State University, was the ceremony’s commencement speaker. She told graduates that “the unexpected interruptions of life” need not cause them to lose their focus on moving forward.

“Whatever you decide to do, do it quickly and do it with all your might,” Riddick said.

Using her own bout with cancer in the past couple of years as an example, Riddick noted that all people face troubles that can range from financial difficulties to health problems to family crises to losing a job.

“Each of you will leave here today and face a world filled with unexpected interruptions,” Riddick said.

But don’t allow the interruptions to become disruptions, she said.

Riddick pointed out that if she took a $20 bill, wadded it up, threw it on the ground and stomped on it, it would still be worth $20.

“I don’t care what happens to you — you’re still valuable,” Riddick said. “If somebody steps on you, get up.”

Riddick, who began her college education by earning an associate degree in business administration at COA, told graduates she started out like many of them. She was home raising kids when she decided to go back to school.

Interruptions are part of life, she said, and told graduates to do what they can to improve whatever situation they find themselves in and not to become impatient as they wait for it to change.

Graduates had varying reasons for returning to COA to earn their high school equivalency.

Duwann Owens, 21, came to COA to earn his high school equivalency after dropping out of Currituck County High School. The subject that led him to drop out was math, he said, noting “I had passed everything else.”

He credits the helpfulness of his math instructor at COA with enabling him to complete the program successfully.

“I really got a lot of help when I needed it,” Owens said.

Owens plans to talk with an Army recruiter about enlisting in the military.

“I wanted to get my graduation out of the way first,” he said.

Tonyia Conner, 24, of Windsor, was home-schooled, and like Owens, she struggled with math.

She said she got a lot of help with math at COA.

Conner plans to enroll in an emergency medical technician program in Windsor that begins in August. She would like to work as an EMT in Bertie County.

Joan Rutsch, 49, learned about the high school equivalency program from her daughter, who is working on an associate in arts at COA.

Rutsch began the program about a year and a half ago and found the instructors helpful. She dropped out of high school in Winfield, Missouri, and is glad to have finished now.

She plans to enroll in additional courses at COA.

“I would like to help senior citizens,” Rutsch said.

Mary Moore, 16, plans to enroll at COA in the fall and transfer to Campbell University. She would like to be a lawyer or veterinarian.

Moore enrolled in the high school equivalency program after dropping out of First Flight High School, where she said she was bullied.

“I came here and I’m glad I did because they’ve just been nothing but awesome and helpful,” Moore said.

The teachers at COA have been observant, helpful and encouraging, she said.

“I feel like because of that I passed all my tests on the first go,” Moore said.

Moore said she was excited to be graduating.

“I feel very proud of myself,” she said. “I’m just happy and I’m happy for everybody here.”