‘It is a beautiful thing’: Lawrence adult education graduates celebrate earning GEDs, diplomas

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Thursday marked Timothy Shoulderblade’s second graduation in as many months. He recently graduated from Douglas County’s drug court program, completed his GED, and he’s rapidly approaching two years clean from drugs and alcohol.

Shoulderblade, 32, recently shared with the Douglas County Commission that he had used alcohol since he was 9 and meth since he was 13. He said he was drinking to avoid getting too strung out and doing meth to not get too drunk when he caught some criminal charges.

He sat in jail for about seven months before he entered the drug court program.

In the time since, he’s used the resources available to him and worked toward his goals. Today he is employed, and he has his driver’s license, and his first car in his own name. He received his GED and has also completed his freshman year studying social work at Haskell Indian Nations University with a 3.8 GPA.

He said his hope has had a chance to flourish, and that everyone deserves a second chance.

Pancho Metz / Lawrence Times Timothy Shoulderblade receives the Larry J. Miller award.

Thursday evening, Shoulderblade was honored with an award in memory of Lawrence J. “Larry” Miller, a former teacher.

Miller died in 2016 and is remembered within the adult education program as being strongly dedicated to his students’ well-being and academic success. The award in his honor is given to one student each year.

As Jasmine Clock prepared to graduate with her GED on Thursday, she said there’s no chance she’d be leaving her childhood self behind.

“I’m transitioning from being a teenager to being a woman, and taking on the world doesn’t seem that scary anymore,” Clock said.

Pancho Metz / Lawrence Times Jasmine Clock

During her commencement speech Thursday evening, Clock related with her fellow graduates from the Lawrence school district’s adult education program. She reminisced about herself as a little girl, dancing in the rain, picking up bugs, teaching herself how to braid her hair, and chasing everything she dreamed of. When she was 16, she left high school because she craved something different, she said.

“Taking your GED is not the traditional path, but it is a beautiful thing,” Clock said. “My name means the ‘gift of life,’ and I truly think that everything in my life so far has been a gift to me.”

As part of the Class of 2024, 46 people graduated from the adult education program this year. Family, friends, teachers, administrators and mentors gathered at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Thursday to celebrate with them.

Lawrence Adult Learning Center graduates — 25 this year — each earn a Kansas State High School diploma from the Kansas Board of Regents for completing the GED test. Others who graduated from the Diploma Completion Program earn diplomas from either high school – this year, 10 from Free State and 11 from Lawrence High.

Graduate Avory Thornsbury, who also gave a commencement speech, shared about his journey to complete his GED certification. He said he didn’t let his past didn’t define him.

Pancho Metz / Lawrence Times Avory Thornsbury

“I went from two failed years of high school to graduating early with a high GPA,” Thornsbury said.

“What I’m really trying to get across from this personal story is that no matter what happens in life, you can’t just stop — you’re minutes away from greatness, even if you can’t see it. And to every other graduate here, you have worked so hard day in and sometimes night, pushing yourself through hell to get here. So congratulations to each and every one of you.”

Pancho Metz / Lawrence Times Bill DeWitt

Bill Dewitt, outgoing principal of the Lawrence College and Career Center, was also recognized for his service to the program and offered well wishes.

Dewitt in April announced he’ll resign from the Lawrence school district to serve as the principal of Eudora High School next year.

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— Reporter Mackenzie Clark contributed to this article.

Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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