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Adult Learning Program in Windsor Graduates 87

  • Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor, Tony Gray of Ascutney has his photograph taken by a photographer for the center. Gray had dropped out of school around 1978 to get married. He said he recently got his certificate because he needed it when applying for jobs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor, Tony Gray of Ascutney has his photograph taken by a photographer for the center. Gray had dropped out of school around 1978 to get married. He said he recently got his certificate because he needed it when applying for jobs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor Andre Lambert helps his daughter Nashe with her mortar board, they both live in Windsor. Nashe was running a bit late and jumped into line moments before the graduating class marched down the isle. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor Andre Lambert helps his daughter Nashe with her mortar board, they both live in Windsor. Nashe was running a bit late and jumped into line moments before the graduating class marched down the isle. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor, Tony Gray of Ascutney has his photograph taken by a photographer for the center. Gray had dropped out of school around 1978 to get married. He said he recently got his certificate because he needed it when applying for jobs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Before the start of the Vermont Adult Learning Graduation in Windsor Andre Lambert helps his daughter Nashe with her mortar board, they both live in Windsor. Nashe was running a bit late and jumped into line moments before the graduating class marched down the isle. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Windsor — Andre Lambert put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder and whispered in her ear.

“I’m proud of you.”

About one year ago, Nashe Lambert, 19, had dropped out of Bellows Falls Union High School. Thirty years prior, Andre Lambert had done the same, drifting through a stint in the Army, several construction jobs, multiple moves across the country.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with her decision,” Andre Lambert said, “but she said ‘Well, you didn’t graduate high school either.’ ”

The next day, he called Vermont Adult Learning, a nonprofit corporation that provides diploma and GED programs for adults.

“And Nashe followed behind me a few weeks after,” Andre Lambert said.

Yesterday evening, the father-daughter duo graduated along with 85 other students in their program, Nashe Lambert earning her high school diploma, her father picking up his GED.

“It was very emotional,” Andre Lambert said, “graduating with my own daughter, telling her never to give up.”

Of the 87 graduates, 27 showed up to the ceremony and donned blue caps and gowns.

They filed out of a dressing room near the back of the auditorium and filled the first two rows as Pomp and Circumstance played from the sound system.

The graduates deserved praise for rising above their individual struggles and earning their diplomas, said Kristin Andrade, the Vermont Adult Learning program’s regional director.

“This is your night tonight,” Andrade said to an auditorium housing at least 200 people. “Anyone can step up and share what’s in their hearts, what’s in their minds.”

The commencement’s student speaker, Sierra Severance, told the room that she couldn’t believe she was minutes away from receiving “a piece of paper” that would change her life.

After dropping out of high school in 2010, the future seemed bleak and shaky, she said.

But that doesn’t stop another try at the future.

“Sometimes life happens, and things and plans change,” Severance said. “Take your second chance.”

As she handed over the microphone, Pixie Loomis, executive director at VALS, handed her a bouquet of white-and-yellow flowers and a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go .

They gave each other a long hug and the audience cheered. “This your moment,” some of them screamed.

“Congratulations,” others yelled. “You deserve this.”

The 27 graduates then rose from their chairs and accepted their diplomas. There was no waiting between recipients, there was constant cheering.

Loomis then congratulated the class of 2013.

“This is a wonderful symbol to the world that you have accepted this goal in your life,” she said. “I cannot tell you how impressed I am for what you’ve accomplished.”

“The word that I hear most when acknowledging what you have accomplished is the word persistence,” she continued, spelling out the word, letter by letter. “P-e-r-s-i-s-t-e-n-c-e.”

“P” is for passion, she said, “e” is for effort. “R” is for results; “s” is for sticking-to-it and studying; “i” is for improvement and investment; the next “s” is for skills; “t” is for time; “e” is for energy; “n” is for “never say never”; “c” is for courage; and “e” is for the end of this speech.

“I give you the heartiest congratulations,” she said. “You all deserve it.”

Students, family members and teachers had the opportunity to speak after that.

“We want you to know that you’re the ones who did the work,” said Kathy Mack, a teacher at VALS. “Some of you struggled to walk through the doors every day, and we know that. We are so proud of you.”

Tiger Rose Leisey stood up and admitted that she suffered from a bout of depression that had kept her from graduating.

Rochelle Ladue read Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken , which she felt embodied her and her classmates, “who didn’t go to high school like every one else.”

“I have a thing for poetry,” she said. “It kind of got me through this.”

Even Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Bethel, who attended the graduation and stood quietly in the back for most of the graduation, felt compelled to speak.

“I swear I came in tonight intending not to speak,” McCormack said, “but I am a politician, and here’s a microphone.”

The audience laughed.

“The Frost poem also includes a wonderful line that’s usually overshadowed,” he said, “ ‘Way leads onto way,’ including sometimes the wrong way.”

“This is not the end,” he continued. “This road leads to other roads. And you have shown you have what it takes to walk those other roads. Congratulations.”

After the ceremony, Andre Lambert couldn’t stop smiling. This was his next step toward someday starting his own business, he said, and he planned to make the most of his second start.

“You can always climb the ladder,” he said. “You’re never stuck at the bottom.”

Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211 or zpeterson@vnews.com

List of Graduates

Kaitlyn Alberghini; Alexandra Anderson; Jennie Batchelder; Jessica Barker; Bethany Bennett; Shadew Benson; Adam Birmingham; Natausha Bourquin; Elizabeth Bowen; Floie Bright; Catherine Brooks; Cindy Butterfield; Shane Champney; Erika Christman; Myles Chung; Alyssa Cooper-Palamar; Laurel Dana; Kassandra Donovan; Gregg Ertle; Julia Fernandez-Turk; Russell Fitzgerald; Shelby Ford; Michael Facteau; Autumn Gaffney; Jon Gibson; Tony Gray; Cole Harrington; Jonathon Hines; Nathan Hinson; Tyler Huckins; Brittany Huestis; Spenser Ingalls; Devin Isaacs; Miarden Jackson; Madison Jarvis; Rochelle Ladue; Kyle LaFlamme; Andre Lambert; Nashe Lambert; Ashlie LaMotte; Joseph Lamson; Emma Wardwell; Michael LePage; Theodore Whitney; Hannah Lepisko; Amber Willis; Tiger Rose Leisey; Chantal Wood; James Lewis; Brian LoPrinzi; Codi Lynch; Adrien MacAulay; Katie Martin; Jason Martin; Zack Merriam; Harlie Merriam; Sean Murray; Brian Norris; Josh Olney; James Ouimette; Travis Ovitt; Dominique Pacheco; Alexander Pacheco; Tiffany Pellerin; Rachel Pelletier; Alexander Perry; Sasha Petrie; Jordan Pfenning; Garth Phillips; Emily Pinz; Jennifer Putnam-Balser; Lee Ranck; Joshua Rowen; Kelsea Ruzzo; Amy Sevene; Sierra Severance; Rachael Shafer; Crystal Sharpe; Tori Simoneau; Brittany Smith; Nikole Snow; Logan Spaulding; Sarah-Marie Sweeney; Morgan Sweeney; Crystal Thomson; Sawyer Terevorrow; Alex Turco