HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Alexander Rutherford and Skylar Bolton are recent graduates of Wallace State Community College’s Adult Education Department, each taking different paths to complete the program.
As Wallace State recognizes National Adult Education and Literacy Week this week, their journeys highlight the opportunities available to individuals who have discontinued public education enrollment or who did not obtain a high school diploma when their high school class graduated.
Rutherford, 35, a current Wallace State welding student, lacked completing only one portion of the exit exam in high school, ultimately keeping him from earning his diploma in 2004.
“I struggled with the English part and never finished it. I couldn’t get my diploma because of that,” said Rutherford, a father to three children, ages 14, 10 and 8.
At the time, Rutherford also began working as a hot tar commercial roofer for Drinkard Development, Inc., in Cullman.
“I had that job, met my wife, had kids and decided to keep on working. I was focused on working,” Rutherford said.
After discussion with a colleague years later, Rutherford inquired about Wallace State’s high school diploma option, which allows students the opportunity to compete the subject(s) left unfinished on the exit exam.
Fifteen years passed between Rutherford’s high school days and enrolling in Wallace State’s Adult Education program. Rutherford worked during the day and attended English prep classes at Wallace State at night. He earned the degree in December 2019.
“I was more motivated as an adult and comprehended it better. For so long, I told myself that life had gotten in the way of finishing and that I was too busy,” Rutherford said. “Life can get in the way, but you have to keep working hard for your goals. I can’t expect my kids to finish something I didn’t finish. Earning the diploma is a big monkey off my back.”
Rutherford’s wife, Tiffany, is also a Wallace State Adult Education graduate and enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at the college.
Since Aug. 12, Wallace State Adult Education graduate Skylar Bolton, also of Cullman, has earned a GED and her state certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
It’s been a rewarding stretch for Bolton, 24, after she decided to pursue her GED one final time.
“I’m looking into buying a house for myself and my kids, and I couldn’t do it without earning my GED,” Bolton said. “I’ll be the first person to tell someone not to give up hope. I’ve started and stopped and started and stopped and been discouraged. I told myself this was it. I think my journey proves there are brighter days ahead.”
Bolton dropped out of high school two months into her senior year and moved to Tennessee for a brief period. Upon moving back to Alabama, Bolton enrolled in Adult Education classes at a sister institution but didn’t complete the curriculum because she became pregnant with her first child.
Three years later, Bolton enrolled in Wallace State’s Adult Education program. She endured personal obstacles again and couldn’t complete the required classes at the time.
With encouragement from Wallace State Adult Ed employee Jennifer Lambert, Bolton gave the program one more shot this year.
Bolton completed the GED test in August and finalized her CNA certifications earlier this week. She’s a CNA for Woodland Village Health Care in Cullman and has plans to pursue a nursing degree.
“I’m so thankful for the Wallace State Adult Education program and Ms. Lambert. They’ve encouraged me every step of the way, even when I wasn’t receptive. The teachers and staff are top-notch, and they do all they can to help you succeed,” Bolton said.
Wallace State’s Adult Education classes are free and available in person and online.
For more information on Wallace State’s Adult Education program, visit www.wallacestate.edu/programs/adult-education or contact Lambert at 256-352-8078.
Read more about National Adult Education and Literacy Week here: https://national-coalition-literacy.org/adult-education-and-family-literacy-week/
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.