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FARMINGTON – It was a full house in the San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center today as friends and family celebrated students who earned their high school equivalency certificates and are ready for college.

About 110 students were honored during the San Juan College High School Equivalency ceremony that completed the GED — or General Educational Development — exam or the HiSet exam to earn their New Mexico High School Equivalency Certificate.

Before the ceremony, a number of students receiving their certificates said they were eager to continue their education at a college or university.

Estrella Montoya-Deyapp said she dropped out of high school during her senior year of high school in 2006 and wanted to earn her high school equivalency certificate to set a good example for her three children.

“I want a better life for myself and them,” Montoya-Deyapp said. “If I can’t do it, why should I expect them?”

Montoya-Deyapp said she was pregnant with her third child when she passed the last of her GED exams in December. She hopes to study criminal justice and business, hoping to become a detective for the Farmington Police Department.

This year's class of 110 students is a major increase from the 32 students honored at the June 2015 ceremony, said Jenny Lambert-Beaty, director of the college’s adult education program. She attributed the drop in GED completions last year to changes made in 2014 to the exam. Some of the changes included increasing the rigor, making the exam only available electronically on a computer and increasing the cost of taking the exam.

Adjustments made to instruction in the college’s adult education program to better prepare the students and by the company that administers the test to lower the passing score from 150 to 145 points led to an increase in graduates this year, Lambert-Beaty said.

“Most of the students that come through our program who transition on to college do well because we prepared them,” Lambert-Beaty said about the college’s adult education program.

The adult education program offers free, noncredit classes in math, reading, writing and English as a second language to adults who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Graduate Cammy Glazier said she was previously home-schooled and started taking adult education courses in August 2015 to prepare to take the GED exam. She passed the last of the four GED exams about a week ago.

“It’s really amazing to have this and know I can do it,” Glazier said about earning their certificate.

Glazier is looking at studying early childhood education and becoming a teacher but hasn’t finalized her decision.

Graduates Kyle and Kylie Vandenburg were one of the few married couples to walk across the stage and received their certificates at the same time. Both of them dropped out of high school in their senior year with the birth of their daughter Annabeth, now 10 months old. They started studying at home to take the GED exam.

“It’s amazing to graduate. Not everybody gets that experience," Kylie Vandenburg said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

Kylie is currently enrolled in the emergency medical services program at San Juan College, and Kyle will pursue a degree in geology after Kylie finishes her program.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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