“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich
I have a special admiration for people with perseverance because it’s a quality I lack. I’m a person who does a really good job for a pretty long time, then quits right before the finish line. I can’t seem to complete things.
I have shelves full of books that I’ve read all but the last chapter. I have closets full of projects taken to near completion then abandoned. It is not uncommon for me to shut the stair-stepper machine at the YMCA off at 19 minutes, rather than making it through that final 20th minute. I don’t know why I do this – I just do. It’s simply the way I am. For this reason, it was particularly inspiring for me to cover the Honors Celebration for the Winder-Barrow Coalition for Adult and Continuing Education (WBCACE) last week. Now those are some folks who can stick to a task!
The first set of awards was for Perfect Attendance, which as the presenter said, is particularly hard to achieve for an adult student who works full time, has a family and a lot of other responsibilities. There was a surprisingly long list of people who won this award, including one woman who walked all the way from the Fort Yargo area to the adult education offices in Winder so she wouldn’t miss even one evening of class.
The next set of certificates was presented to students who mastered English as their second language. Several of those had already received perfect attendance awards and a few were also recognized for becoming certified as substitute teachers. That’s a lot of hard work completed in evenings and on weekends.
There were awards given to students who earned their GED and to students who received scholarships to pay for taking their GED exam. One recipient of exam scholarship money had taken his GED test that day and passed. His dad and several other family members were with him and they were so excited and proud.
There was an award for Positive Attitude, Perseverance and Dedication, and this certificate seemed particularly precious to those who had earned it – like, wow, all that hard work and effort was actually noticed and recognized!
One woman with perfect attendance was also among those inducted into the National Adult Education Honors Society. She also received an Exceptional Achievement award for passing six levels of material on a single test. Her husband and little girls were in the audience cheering for her – making it obvious that her school work wasn’t’ the only thing she had to take care of.
A man was recognized for achieving U.S. citizenship, which I understand is a long, arduous, expensive process. His wife had already become a citizen and they have two sons, born in America and nearly grown, with long lists of academic and athletic achievements. Their excitement about the opportunities America offers was tangible; it shone from their eyes and lit up their faces. I got the sense that in that family even the sky might not be the limit...
The student speaker was a woman who started working towards her GED years ago. The twists and turns of her life meant that it took a long time for her to succeed, but with perseverance, the support of her family and “so many people praying for me,” she said, she made it and was a beaming example of how good achieving a dream can be.
I wiped more than one tear from my eyes that evening. “These people have worked so hard,” I kept thinking to myself, wondering why, at times, someone like me, blessed with English as my first language and surrounded by so many opportunities, can’t seem to follow through at times… It took me 20 years to complete my bachelor’s degree. I dropped out of college my final semester just after my son was born and, two English credits short of graduating, never went back. Over the years, I ordered a couple of distance learning courses that I didn’t complete. Then finally, after working for a newspaper for a few years, I found a dean at my old university willing to give me those two credits if I submitted a sufficient sampling of my newspaper work.
Thanks to her, I graduated in 2001 – with honors. It seems my old grade point average was high enough that she could enclose an honors medal with that not so hard earned, but long time in coming college diploma.
I’m not proud of that story, although I’m glad it has a happy ending. There is no reason for someone blessed the way I have been blessed, to dilly-dally around and not complete something as major as a college degree for 20 years. There’s just no excuse for that.
So, my hat is off to those adult education honorees; they clearly have exhibited a level of perseverance and dedication that continues to escape me.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is an award winning writer for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.