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A Feather in Their Caps: Rio Celebrates High School Equivalency Diploma Recipients

photo of HSE graduates in caps and gown at ceremony Faculty and staff on stage at HSE graduation National Guard presenting of the American Flag at HSE graduation Adult Ed staff, student speaker and Splash mascot posing for a photo student speaker and Splash mascot posing for a photo Governing Board Member Linda Thor posing with Splash mascot

A Feather in Their Caps: Rio Celebrates High School Equivalency Diploma Recipients

A cap and gown symbolizes a time of celebration and accomplishment. Donned in this academic attire, more than 100 members of Rio Salado’s High School Equivalency Class of 2022 gathered in June to mark an accomplishment many sought for years.

“Tonight is the culmination of that life-changing decision you made to create a brighter future for yourself, your family and community,” said Rio Salado College President Kate Smith during the first in-person commencement ceremony in three years. 

Smith was joined by the students’ families and friends, along with program instructors and state education, city and college leadership during the ceremony June 16 at North Phoenix Baptist Church. 

“Graduates, this extraordinary, amazing community helped you along the way - but you were the ones who made the decision to take on this challenge, to make the sacrifices and do the hard work,” Smith said.

Student speaker Rachel Lopez shared her educational journey with the group, a journey that started after she dropped out of school at 14, “without ever walking into a high school classroom.”

“I decided to get my GED so I can help my kids with their education and so I can have a career in a field that I’ve wanted for such a long time,” she said of her goal to one day be a triage nurse. “I was determined, but also scared and anxious.”

Lopez said Rio staff helped alleviate her worries and when she wanted to give up and drop out after failing her first math test attempt, family - including her husband and five boys - and friends kept her going.

“My degree means more than just a just certificate … for me, my diploma symbolizes my ability to fight through adversity and take charge of my life,” she said.

In total, 206 Rio Waves this year earned their diplomas. Six graduates, including Lopez, also completed a medical administrative assisting certificate of completion while earning their HSE through Rio Salado’s partnership with Phoenix College, a program that allows them to earn their HSE simultaneously with their career-specific certificate. Completing both credentials sets a path for students to either start working immediately in the field or continue their education toward additional certificates or an associate’s degree.

“We salute all of our graduates who are here because they decided to make education a part of their lives,” said Rio Salado Associate Dean Kelly Stewart at the conclusion of the event. “Graduates, we thank you for allowing Rio Salado College to be a part of your journey. We hope to continue serving you with your future educational goals.”

Special guests at the event include Maricopa Community College District Interim Chancellor Dr. Steven Gonzales, MCCCD Governing Board member and Rio Salado College President Emeritus Dr. Linda Thor, Arizona Department of Education Deputy Associate Superintendent Sheryl Hart, and Tempe Mayor Corey Woods.

Rio Salado is the largest provider of adult education in the state of Arizona. Rio’s adult education program includes classes for GED® Test Preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Career Training. Rio receives funding from the Arizona Department of Education, Adult Education Services to support adult education programming and is a core partner in the local workforce system. RSC partners with ARIZONA@WORK to provide comprehensive employment services to youth and adults including assistance covering the cost of career training.  

To view the recorded ceremony, pictures, or official program please visit Rio Central- Graduation and NAEHS Spotlight.  

Read more about the graduates, including speaker Rachel Lopez.

Meet Rio Salado College HSE Graduate Harsha Patel

Meet National Adult Education Honor Society (NAEHS) Speaker Amanda Wood

Enroll Rio Salado College’s adult education programs today.

Article by Michelle Reese, Program Manager

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