Doors that were once closed were flung open Thursday night.
That's how Narrie Garduno, a grandmother of four, described the feeling as she held on to her mortarboard in the gusty winds.
She was among more than a hundred graduates who participated in commencement ceremonies at Paine College's Gilbert-Lambuth Chapel to receive their General Equivalency Diplomas from Augusta Technical College. The participants represented a total class of more than 1,000.
Jobs that Ms. Garduno, 51, had applied for were just out of reach because she lacked a diploma. Before commencement even began, she received a better job, higher pay and a brighter outlook for the future.
"It's an open door now to a lot of doors that were closed to me before," she said. "It's a different world, and people treat you differently."
She dropped out as a junior in high school in 1971 so that she could get married and wasn't able to return to school as she raised children. Her children were in attendance Thursday to share in their mother's accomplishment.
"I never thought I would see this day. I've dreamed about it," Ms. Garduno said.
But, working two jobs and studying until the early morning, she realized her dream.
And in September, another door will be opened to Ms. Garduno as she embraces another challenge. She will return to school to become a nurse.
Her story is one of many of the emotional stories of obstacles overcome and goals met.
One student received a promotion the day after passing the GED test, and another now sees a future of possibilities, said Howie Gunby, Augusta Tech's adult literacy director.
"Our students have overcome so many barriers," he said. "It's a tremendous accomplishment. A young lady today (Thursday) told me it was just one of the best things she has done in her life, and it has opened doors for her now to even go to college, where she thought college was not even a possibility."
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.