‘You need an education’

Bryant Everhart, 47, shakes hands with administrators from Treasure Valley Community College on Thursday at a General Education Development graduation ceremony. Seven students graduated as part of the program.

ONTARIO — Graduation for students earning their high school diploma may have occurred months ago, but for some adults looking to better themselves and their education, that hard work paid off on Thursday. That’s when seven individuals were handed their General Education Development diploma at Four Rivers Community School.

Unlike traditional GED programs offered at Treasure Valley Community College, the graduation ceremony on Thursday was the culmination of a collaboration between the college’s adult basic skills department and Four Rivers Community School, which provided the facility for instruction, lab space, and child care, according to Jann Bell, who serves as the adult basic skills department director at the college.

A cohort of 12 students was formed from a combination of Four Rivers Community School parents and other students looking to earn their GED diploma. Out of this group, seven students managed to pass their GED test, and of those, three students opted to show for the ceremony.

The program started in February, with a pretest to gauge where the students were in their education, said Raeshelle Meyer, Four Rivers Community School principal. Most students attended classes from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The original idea had been to only cater to Four Rivers Community School parents, Meyer said.

“We talk about whole family education,” Meyer said. “We thought, ‘What can we do for parents?’”

That eventually expanded to include other GED students.

One of those graduates on Thursday was 17-year-old Anthony Angell, from Ontario, who has been living in the foster care system for about seven months.

The young man had been resistant to go and try to earn his GED diploma, but advice from those that knew him eventually persuaded him.

“Everyone I knew was telling me that if you want to do something with your life, you need an education,” Angell said.

Angell had zero credits earned in high school when he came on to take the classes to earn his GED diploma.

Now, with diploma in hand, Angell has one of two tracks he is looking to pursue into the future: enrolling in Boise State University’s computer science program or joining the Army.

The program itself for the ceremony was a simple affair — parents, family, and friends gathered at the community school to see their loved ones earn their diploma.

Cathy Yasuda, acting vice president of student services at TVCC, along with Chase Van Weerdhuizen, the college’s recruiting coordinator, both encouraged the graduates to continue onward with their education, to not get complacent, and to learn to take a risk if they want to improve themselves.

Van Weerdhuizen told an account of when he met a 101-year-old man at the Malheur County Fair who provided some basic, but rather profound advice on how to live life.

“‘You gotta keep going,’” Van Weerdhuizen said to the congregation. Taking the momentum they have with their new diploma and making that success a habit, he said, would improve themselves and their futures.

Another of the graduates was Bryant Everhart, a 47-year-old father of one who heard the call from Bell about the opportunity to earn his GED diploma.

“It’s been 28 years,” Everhart remembered thinking when he heard about the opportunity. “What can I lose?”

Everhart had been working for Kraft Heinz for those 28 years when he started taking the GED courses, bringing along his daughter to Four Rivers Community School half the time.

The most prevailing sentiment from Everhart when he found out he passed the GED test: relief.

“I thought I’d flunked the math test,” he said.

Approximately $50,000 was awarded to TVCC through a grant in order to implement the program. That money is part of $1.6 million provided by the 2015 Oregon legislature in order to create a system to better support students who need to earn their GED and move on to jobs or other post-secondary opportunities.

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