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The Hartford Courant
Adult Education Grads Find Success
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
June 25, 2003
Jessenia Cruz was full of the jitters Tuesday as she stood in line to collect her high school diploma during the adult education ceremony at Weaver High School.
The 18-year-old epitomized what all the speakers were talking about when they said the 222 graduates had to overcome tremendous obstacles. "I had a baby when I was 16. I had a hard time finding a baby sitter. I live on my own."
A few paces behind her, Michael Manson was making his way toward the stage, too. Manson, 18, has overcome more trials than most people experience in a lifetime. "My freshman year I was in the hospital for two months. I got shot in the leg."
The shooting was an "accident," he said. But Manson was no angel. He said he did a stint in jail "for not being good."
But that's all history. "I was on the streets, but I changed my life," he said, speaking with a sincere tone through a mouthful of braces. "I want to go to college and be a parole officer."
Manson is one of six young men who were incarcerated and made it through high school with the help of a Pilot Reintegration Education Program grant. All of them want to go into criminal justice, said Cynthia Rutledge, the psychologist who coordinates their program. "They love their parole officers. These guys are there for these kids."
And the kids love Rutledge, too. "Please thank Dr. Rutledge," Manson said, turning back from the stairs to the stage to make his request.
The adult education graduation isn't like other graduations. Friends and family don't sit quietly while "Pomp and Circumstance" plays as the graduates make their way to their seats. At the first appearance of a graduate, the hundreds of audience members leapt to their feet and erupted in spontaneous shouts of joy and encouragement. Here and there a riff from the song could be heard for a fraction of a second. The song had just enough presence to be part of the noise.
Sandra Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to the superintendent and the keynote speaker, told the story of her own challenging childhood. The youngest of five children, she came to Connecticut from her native Puerto Rico as a child. Her father abandoned the family when she was 9, leaving her mother to care for the family in a land "where she didn't know anyone." When her health faltered, the family lived on welfare.
Cruz-Serrano was the only one of her siblings to graduate from high school without interruption and she went on to college. "At times I felt like giving up," she said.
Sitting in the front row, Rutledge brimmed with pride, too. Watching the young men in her program climb the stairs, she smiled and clapped. "They're really great kids.
They just needed a chance and they needed support."
Manson reflected on the profound turning point at hand. "I've been through a lot. It's finally over."
Adult Education Class of 2003:
Christina Lee Acevedo, Natalie Arroyo, Rainelda Ayala, Ivonne Baez, Carl Bagley, Cindy Baker, Jennifer Berberena, Bianca Bingham, Mary Bingiel, Tychel Yevette Blatche, Marina Blocker, Tyrell Blue, Alex Bonilla, Dontavius Bournes, Gregory Bowman, Anthony Brinson, Amir K. Brown, Luis Brucelis, Estelle Bryant, Kirk Bucknor, Erica Burke, Michael F. Bustamante, Dianette Caquias, Naiomi Cardona, Cindy Cargill, Brenda Carrero, Mariellis Carrion, Leiz Castillo, Magaly Castro, Katherine M. Charette, Mecalus Charles, Angella Fiona Clarke, Sasha Class, Ronald L. Clayton II, India Cobbs, Iyofemi Coley, Iyona Cook, Cristina Cordero, Mario Correa, Victor Coto, Candice Crouch, Jessenia Cruz and Debbie Curry.
Also Alberta L. Daniel, Charlene E. Daniels, Justo Davila, John Davis, Shatoya Davis, James Delaine, Orlando Delgado, Evelyn Diaz, Joshua Diaz, Pamela Diaz, Areliz DiLeone, Shara Dorsey, Takiyan Douglas, Starri Easterling, Benita Edwards, Lachelle Edwards, David Erazo Jr., Victor Escobar, Meredith N. Etienne, Ninette Fabian, Cesar A. Feliz, Janet Figueroa, Jimmy J. Flintroy, Tyeshia Flowers, Erou Foster, Idris France, Nicholas J. Furze, Alycia Garcia, Angel Garcia, Elizabeth Garzia, Alsem Georges, John Gonzalez, Nancy Gonzalez, Holly S. Grady, Charmique T. Grange, Julio Eduardo Guzman, Derrylynn Hanson, John Hebert, Stephanie E. Henry, Karolyn Hernandez, Angel N. Hicks, Kendyd Hidalgo, Daveton Hines, Frances Sharika Howard and Al B. Hughes.
Also Dante Jackson, Elmine Jean, Jessica Jimenez, John E. Johnson, Tamika R. Keith, Randall Andrew Kelly, Nafayia I. Kenion, Adrienne Knight, Lillian Laboy, Raul Lara, Suhail Leon, Jarrell Leslie, Carla P. Lester, Juan Liriano, Rosemarie Locke, Annabella Gini Lombardo, Nicole M. Lombardo, Ivette Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Stephanie Lopez, Virginia Lopez, Jocelyn Lozada, Jackeline J. Madera, Janice Mahoney, Mieczyslaw Majkrzak, Damaris Mangual, Michael Manson, Edwin Marquez, Dana Vertise Marintez, Lamarra Cheri McCall, Marreil McCrorey, Nicole A. McDonald, Sheena C. McDonald, Shatia McGriff, Mitsy G. McLean, Decitrice Medina, Mary Mele, Wanda Mendez, Priscilla Milledge, Daron Mitchell, Alexander Molina, LaToya Junia Moore, Sean Morrison, Aracelys E. Negron, James Noland, Tammie Oliver, Olga I. Orengo, Alvaro Ortiz, Hazel Ortiz, Santa Ortiz, Michael Osbourne and Diego Osorio.
Also Christopher Palomo, Shawn Patterson, Ivelissez Pedraza, Miguel A. Perez, Walter Devin Powell III, Henry Pratts, Mariely Pratts, Javin Probst, Reita D. Pryce, Isaiah O. Quinonez, Ricardo F. Quiroz, Maria C. Ramos, Yadira Reyes, Anahill Rivera, Lizmarie Rivera, Michael Rivera, David Robinson, Jermaine Robinson, Walter Robinson, Angel Rodriguez, Angel H. Rodriguez, Dante Rodriguez, Ketsy Rodriguez, Luis A. Rodriguez, Melanie Rodriguez, Nilsa Rodriguez, Rachael Maria Rodriguez, Rodolfo Rodriguez, Danny Rojas, Yamilka I. Rolon, Samantha Romero, Jessmarie Rosado, Luis Rosario, Laura Ruiz, Damen C. Rund, Andre Russell, Jesus Saez, Albi Sako, Paulet M. Salmon, Saeed Samakaab, Maria Santana, Rafael A. Santana, Adamaris Santiago, Mildred Santiago, Raul Santiago, Jean H. Sapiain, Keyahn Schand, Devhon R. Shelton, Shelbi Smith, Dominique Spence, Stella E. Springer, Tija Stanley, Santaeus Stephens, Olga Stylle-Cotto, Krystle Allisha Sutton, Junie Tomby, Carmen G. Torres, Jecenia Torres, Raquel Torruella, Doretha Maria Trice, Michelle E. Tynik, Lizvette Vazquez, Giovani Omar Vega, Roberto Velasquez, Kyle R. Walker, Jeanet White, Bryson Williams, Trevonn Williams, Pavar Williams-Bey and Jermaine Lloyd Wint.