Celebrating the Class of 2018!
The Class of 2018 was excited to walk the stage last Tuesday at the Long Center for Performing Arts because at the end was their high school diploma! This year’s graduating class is the largest since The Goodwill Excel Center opened in 2014, with 180 graduates including ten from the extension campus at the Lockhart Women’s Correctional Facility.
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The evening marked a major milestone for all of the graduates – many of them plan to continue their education while others are eager to enter or re-enter the workforce. Graduates honored for their academic accomplishments include valedictorians Brenda Mucino and Ashlee Trevino, who both received a certificate from the State of Texas good for one year’s tuition at any Texas college or university. Salutatorians for the class were Gerrit Tipping and Diana Curtis.
Other notable graduates include Marysha Thomas and Shareece Harris, winners of the Winnie MacIver Gage Scholarship, which is awarded annually to two female graduates pursuing post-secondary education. The scholarship was donated to Excel in 2017 by long-time Board Director, Les Gage, local business owner and philanthropist, in honor of his wife.Jacob Trimarco, was awarded the Dr. Billy Harden Student Leadership Award, named after the first principal of The Goodwill Excel Center, who recently passed away, honoring his legacy of leadership.
Finally, this year, for the first time two faculty members, Mark Chen and Sarah Gosnay, were honored with The Goodwill Excel Center Pioneer in Education Award. Both recipients were recognized for their dedication to and work at the Lockhart Women’s Correctional Facility Campus.
New graduate Azalia, who, “never thought this day would come,” was ready to celebrate her classmates’ accomplishments. “As a wife and mother of three children, the idea of going back to school was not in my plans,” said Azalia in her Welcome Address to the auditorium. “Everything was going well. I was busy raising my kids and taking care of the household chores.”
She calls her time at Excel an “extraordinary journey.” “Being part of The Goodwill Excel Center gave me the opportunity to take one step forward in my education to better myself and be a good role model for my children. Not only that, The Goodwill Excel Center gave me confidence in myself and that helped me even in the toughest times not to give up.”
Azalia plans to attend Austin Community College, with the goal of becoming a Registered Nurse.
Chaz, Graduate Commencement Speaker, received a standing ovation for his impassioned speech. He is currently in college and working too, saying that you can always find him in one of three places every day: class, work, and bed. “I don’t have time for my old life, because that kind of life will never allow me to reach my goals.”
Chaz is well on his way to rebuilding his life after spending time in jail. “Some people think jail is no big deal, that you are tough, and you do your time, and that’s it. I’m here to tell you; it’s not. It’s hard to go to sleep at night when your stomach is bubbling when you are missing your family. Behind those doors, everyone knows what you’re doing. You’re crying for your Mom; you’re crying for your Dad.”
Goodwill Excel Center Superintendent Traci Berry reminded students how far they had some, and that choosing to attend Excel was the right choice. “Throughout your life, you have managed change, sometimes well, sometimes not, but when you walked through The Goodwill Excel Center doors you chose to change for good. It was an investment in yourself and your family. Tonight, you changed your future. On this night, you are high school graduates.”