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Library Celebrates 13 Students at Citywide Adult Graduation Ceremony

Last month, the Library celebrated the achievements of 85 adults who received their diplomas during the 15th annual Greater New Orleans Adult Education Graduation. The graduating class successfully passed their HiSETs – a high school equivalency exam similar to the GED – after attending one of a number of adult education programs, including one of two offered through the Library, which had 13 graduates participate in the ceremony.

Andrea Gazaway, coordinator of instruction at YMCA Educational Services, said the graduation ceremony is an important acknowledgement of the hard work that adult education students do. Many of her students enroll in YES classes at the Library years after they left school and must clear numerous hurdles and stigmas just to make it through the door. 

Once there, Gazaway said her students often continue to face obstacles that traditional students typically do not. Whether it’s coordinating childcare, balancing work schedules, or taking care of other responsibilities at home or work, Gazaway said obtaining your diploma as an adult is no small feat – which is why she loves the citywide graduation.

“The ceremony allows us to acknowledge the hard work our adult education students do. It lets them and their families celebrate this milestone in their lives, their achievement, and the chance to move forward to even greater things,” Gazaway said.

Additionally, Gazaway said she hopes the graduation ceremony motivates others to follow in her students’ footsteps.

“The ceremony also allows our students to be an inspiration for those who have not gotten their diplomas yet,” she said. “It is never too late to start, and [the ceremony] shows that they have not missed out on the chance to graduate.”

Robin Goldblum – the Library’s adult education and literacy head – helped organize the ceremony on behalf of the Library and the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans – two of the many partners to participate in the graduation.

For the past two years, the celebration has been held virtually, Goldblum said she was thrilled to return in person this year to commemorate the students’ accomplishments.

“This year continued to be full of unprecedented challenges as we continue living through the COVID 19 pandemic, ” Goldblum said. “As our students continue to persevere, they affirm their strength and capability to survive and thrive. By attaining their hard-earned HiSET during the most strenuous of times, these graduates showed us that they can do anything they put their mind to.”

By gathering together to celebrate these achievements, Goldblum said the Library, YES, and their community partners reaffirmed their commitment to making education and information accessible and judgment free for all. 

“We understand that knowledge is power, and we have a responsibility to use education to help connect those who feel disconnected and bridge the divides in our community,” Goldblum said. “Our graduates inspire us to see our world as a learning opportunity. They have the skills, training, and experience to further succeed, and inspire others to do the same.”

Wanda Sanders got her high school diploma after receiving a scholarship from the Library to attend Career Online High School, a diploma and career certification program available through public libraries across the country.

Sanders finished the program last summer and celebrated with an at-home graduation put on by her friends and family. Almost a year later, she was finally able to walk across the stage and collect her diploma at the citywide graduation ceremony.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” Sander said last year. “I feel good, but I can’t believe I actually did it. I still find myself crying when I think about it. I feel like a burden has been lifted, and I can be proud that I followed through with this goal that I’ve had for so long.”

Since receiving her diploma last year, Sanders started taking classes to get certified in medical billing and coding.

The Library celebrated the achievement of 12 other students who completed their HiSET requirements through YES programming or attended Career Online High School with Library scholarships:

  • Jules Adams Jr. 
  • Irion Paul
  • Brandy Bailey
  • Daniel Potts
  • Angel Bolden
  • Kera Newman 
  • Keisha Brown 
  • Raymond Roberts
  • Brandon Cordier
  • Jonnika Ellsworth
  • Tevin Williams
  • Jessica Hadad

Learn more about the Library’s adult education resources and services here.

The 15th annual Greater New Orleans Adult Education Graduation was hosted in partnership with the Youth Empowerment Project, Hope House, Delgado Adult Education Program, YMCA Educational Services, the New Orleans Public Library, One Book One New Orleans, Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans, Greater New Orleans Writing Project, National Council of Jewish Women, Common Ground Relief Wetlands, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Melba’s, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, Gambit Weekly, Work Ready U, and University of New Orleans.


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