By Dick Maloney
James Keirns was fulfilling a promise he made to his grandmother 22 years ago.
Stephanie Weaver was proving something to her children.
They were two of the 26 who graduated from Clermont Northeastern High School June 14 as part of the district’s “22 Plus” program, which gives adults 22-and-older the chance to complete their high school course of study and earn a diploma.
Twenty-two of the 26 attended the ceremony and celebration at Norlyn Manor in Batavia. A group of speakers, including Clermont Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Matt Van Sant, talked about the importance of the program, which is the only one of its kind in the county. Diplomas were then conferred on the blue and gold-clad graduates as a room full of proud family and friends cheered and applauded, some holding signs congratulating their loved ones.
“I made a promise to my grandmother right before she passed away that I would get a diploma, or equal to it, and it was a lot more challenging trying to do it now that I’m a parent,” Keirns said. He left CNE two credits short of graduating in 1994.
“Because I already had my career set. I was ready to go. I’m a millwright by trade and I was out on the road, and it got to the point where I’m thinking it was time for me to do what was right,” he said. Keirns now owns his own business, Integrity Fabrication LLC, but was determined to fulfill the promise made to his grandmother.
“I think it’s really great that we’re able to do that in the community and have this type of program for the people that are already established but they still would need to acquire their diploma or something for their own self needs,” he said.
He admitted to some skepticism when he first heard about the program.
“I wasn’t quite sure if this was the real deal, but once I got into the program, and (program coordinator) Bob (Havrilla) was going through the study guide and everything, I was like ‘This is the real deal,’ especially after I took my first test,” he said.
The graduation ceremony was the second in two weeks for the Keirns family. Keeley Keirns was a member of the high school’s Class of 2018.
“Well, it’s really awesome that he gets to graduate at all, but it’s really cool that I do, so we’re both Class of 2018,” Keeley, who is headed to University of Cincinnati Blue Ash, said.
Stephanie Weaver left Western Brown High School halfway through her senior year in 1994.
“Young, met a guy, left home, got married. Didn’t finish. I was there 11 1/2 years, so I was almost done,” she said.
She now has two children in the CNE district, and the 22 Plus program provides her an opportunity to set an example for them and advance her career.
“Oh geez. It means a lot. It told my kids that I had the passion to go after something that I’ve been wanting for a long time and when I found the program from the high school online and I called Mr. Havrilla and I got in, I was nervous, I was one of the nervous ones, but it means a lot to me because I’ve been after it a long time. Especially job wise, you can’t do much without it, so I’m one of the first ones in my family to graduate, so it means a lot,” she said.
Weaver works in the health field and now plans to pursue both her LPN and RN licenses.
These are the stories that district officials hoped to inspire when they began the program in January. CNE Superintendent Michael Brandt said he couldn’t be happier with the results.
“Part of a high school education is to prepare students for the world of work. Secondary education benefits, from associate degrees going to the military, and many students, for whatever reason, interrupted their education shy of graduation, and when this program was presented to us, we thought it would enhance the opportunity for Clermont County residents to come back and get this degree,” Brandt said.
“Tonight it’s (26) since January and we have another 50 on the books that are working their way through to next year, so we couldn’t be more happy. We hope this give them better employment possibilities. Several of them have already told us it’s leading to raises within their employment, so I think overall I think it’s a home run.”
The interest in the program surprised administrators.
“I’m shocked that we had this many this fast, CNE High School Principal T.J. Glassmeyer said. “I thought if we had five or 10 by this time, we’d be doing really well, but to have 26, 27, is a testament to Bob and the work he’s put in and the amazing job he does.”
The 22 Plus program differs from GED in that instruction is individualized and ongoing.
“This is a special grant program through the Ohio Department of Education. They have to be a minimum of 22-years-old, and there’s geographic requirements so nobody can open up so many miles from us. I think it’s like 30 to 40, so we’re the only show here in Clermont County, and we’re hoping to attract a lot more students and give them the same opportunities that this group had,” Brandt said.
Havrilla, who has been an educator for more than 40 years, said the graduation ceremony was the highlight of his career.
“As students come in, we sit down, we evaluate them on what they might need help with, and then as we get their transcripts in, we look at them and might say this is the classes you need and then we sit down and develop a strategy of how to accomplish that, those classes,” he said. “And again, attendance is on their own. If they don’t show up for a couple of, they call me or I call them and say ‘You need to come in,’ so there’s constant communication with the program and the students.”
Keirns, Weaver and Glassmeyer praised Havrilla for the work he does with the students.
“He does a fantastic job of working with each individual and giving them a lot of one-on-one attention,” Glassmeyer said.
“He meets four times a week with them, but within that there is a lot of opportunity for individualized instruction. If he has four people working with him, all four may be working on something completely different, so he bounces around to each of the four or however many are in there and gives them individual attention.”
Keirns said Havrilla made it a point to stay in contact.
“Bob did a fantastic job. He was constantly calling me and saying, ‘When are you going to be able to come in again, because we’d like you in here,’ and I’d go in and study, do the tests. He was very (informative) on anything I had a question on,” Keirns said.
Anyone interested in the program can contact AdultDiploma@cneschools.org or 513-625-1211 Extension 350, with any questions.
Any adult who did not complete high school or earn a GED, lives in Ohio, and is over 22 years of age is eligible to enroll, regardless of school district. The flexibility of the program allows adults to work from home or with our caring and compassionate staff.
Brandt, who has also been superintendent in Cincinnati and Newport, said the time investment is worth it.
“It’s just amazing to me how special this was for them. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage coming across. They’re all just really emotional and you could hear the crowd, it sounds better than a high school graduation.”
These are the 26 members of the first Clermont Northeastern adult graduating class:
Sabrina Eileene Blank
Shawn Eric Blank
Tina Lynn Boone
Anita Jean Bowles
Tonya Hensley Brabant
Tammy L. Branam
Donna K. Daugherty
Brenda S. Duncan
Vickie Lynn Ernst
Marian Ashley Hall
Walter Durkin Herbert
Angela Renee Herndon
Jerry Lee Kirby
Courtney Lynn Kuhlmann
Michelle Marie McCartney
Holly Ranee Miller
Devon Marie Penny
Steven Allen Roesch
Lizz Marie Santiago
Jenny E. Sexton
Skylar Hayley Sweeney
Stephanie Ann Weaver
CNE, in partnership with the community, will provide students with the skills and exploratory experiences that enable them to reach their fullest potential. To accomplish this, the CNE staff will:
– Strive to make children confident and creative builders of their future
– Research, design, and provide the best academic program and learning environment possible for students.
Schools in the CNE District include Clermont Northeastern High School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Elementary School and Clermont Northeastern Preschool.