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Students receive GED during graduation ceremony

Oxford, Ala. — Gadsden State Community College hosted its 2023 Adult Education Graduation for 33 students who earned their general equivalency diploma. The ceremony was held April 11 at the Oxford Performing Arts Center.

“These students have overcome numerous obstacles to get to this point, and we are so very proud of how they have not only changed their own lives for the better but have changed the direction of generations to come in their family by earning their GED or High School Diploma Option,” said Dr. Matthew Burttram, director of Adult Education Services.

He recognized the instructors and the staff in Adult Education Services by calling them “real-life superheroes.”

“They change lives every day through the work they do, and I know these graduates can attest that they would not be here tonight without them,” he said.

Since July, 63 students have earned their GED or HSDO; 152 earned National Career Readiness Certification; and 1,030 certificates were awarded for completing training in digital literacy, manufacturing skills, career pathways and other courses.

“All of this success is a testament to everything our instructors do every day,” he said.

Burttram also recognized the family and friends of the graduates.

“You all have helped these graduates cross the finish line,” he said. “No student graduates alone. These people journey with you through the ups and downs; they cheer you on; and are here with you now as you cross the finish line to graduation.”

Dr. Kathy Murphy, president of Gadsden State, told the graduates that one of her favorite songs is “Pomp and Circumstance,” which is traditionally played during graduation ceremonies.

“Hearing that song tells me that something really awesome is happening,” she said. “It tells me that we are about to celebrate accomplishments made by our students.

“A lot of people are here who have stood with you, behind you and alongside you. They are here to celebrate you. I know they are proud of you and I know I am, too.”

The graduation ceremony included speeches from GED graduates Tracy Hutcheson, a 55-year-old graduate who dropped out of high school in the mid-1980s, and Devin Dampier, a Mississippi native who prevailed over drug addiction to earn his GED.

“I survived a car accident that happened while I was driving under the influence,” Dampier said. “I had five overdoses. I was incarcerated at 23 years old. I knew I had to change my life and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I now have a good relationship with God. I no longer have to do this life alone. I have a Savior that reminds me of that. This is a blessing.”

Alan Smith, dean of Workforce Development, awarded a full scholarship to Deonte Jones, who earned his GED and WorkKeys certification in six months. He now plans to enroll at Gadsden State and pursue a career in engineering.

“I can honestly say that within the past few months I have become better with self-discipline, and this has prepared me for challenges that I will endure in the future,” Jones said. “Whoever plans to invest in my future will not be disappointed. I plan to continue to showcase my improved maturity as a person and as a student.”

Smith also presented $1,000 scholarships to Emma Turley, Destiney Hickman, Charly Williams and Devin Dampier. All of the GED completers are eligible for one free class at Gadsden State as well.

The GED graduates include Ashley Allen, Larissa Balliet-Beckwith, Taylor Marie Baruch, Amber Benton, Amy Lynn Brooks, Julian Carr, Celia Castro, Gary Coody, Kyra Ayana Crosson, Devin Dampier, Jaylin Ezekiel, Joby Giles, Jazmine Goss, Daniel Lee Gray, Jeremy Griffin, Destiney Hickman, Tracy Hutcheson, Piper Hyde, Joshua Jackson, Deonte Jones, Jodi Jones, Heather Lancaster, Michael Ray McCullough, Vanessa McWhorter, Paul Kamea Margadonna, Guy Marler, Shelbi Nicole Phillips, Xena Rangel, Jeremy Reynolds, Kristy Rochelle Shields, Emma, Lashay Turley, Charly Grace Williams and Sierra Wilson.

After Burttram and Murphy awarded the diplomas, Dr. Farrah Hayes, dean of Academic Programs and Services, challenged the graduates to keep improving themselves and their quality of life.

“Continue your education,” she said. “We want to continue to serve you at Gadsden State. We want to watch you fly. Let us help you achieve the next goal. We want to help you live up to all you are destined to be.”

For more information about the GED program as well as other programs and services offered in Adult Education Services, visit

Dr. Kathy Murphy speaks to the graduates and audience during a ceremony held April 11 at the Oxford Performing Arts Center

Dr. Kathy Murphy speaks to the graduates and audience during a ceremony held April 11 at the Oxford Performing Arts Center. See more photos in this album:

GED graduation ceremony 2023