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Program offers students second chance

In addition to graduating from the Butler County School System’s Second Chance program, Epsy Vanetta Robinson was also awarded an honorary diploma from the year she had originally planned to graduate from Greenville High School in 1978.

Dry eyes were the exception rather than the rule Thursday evening at the Butler County Board of Education conference room during an emotional Milestone Celebration of the 2017 Second Chance program.

Eight students of various ages, backgrounds and circumstances received diplomas upon their completion of the program.

Guest speaker Jerry Morris, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and an educator for more than 20 years, delivered a speech of congratulations and hope in the face of trying times.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  And your attitude will determine how well you do it,” Morris said.

“See, life doesn’t always follow the plans you laid out for yourself.  You’re going to experience the highs and the lows, difficulties and ease.  Nothing will be handed to you.  You’ll have to earn it.  But because you earned it, you’ll appreciate it more.

“You’re now armed with the most important tool you’ll need.  It’s not the diploma itself that counts, but what you’ve learned along the way.”

During the handing out of diplomas, Greenville High School principal Joseph Dean paused the ceremony to offer special remarks for a former student of his, Adrianna Michelle Joyner.

“The last conversation that Adrianna and I had was in my office before she left school,” Dean said. “She talked about the difficulties she had been through.  And I said ‘sweetheart, I may not know your situation, but I know your position.’ It’s a big difference. 

Years ago, as a student in GHS principal Joseph Dean’s office, Adrianna Joyner promised him that she would finish her degree. Dean said that he would be there, and when she did he wanted her to snatch the diploma from his hands. Her moment came Thursday during the 2017 Second Chance Milestone Celebration.

“I said that whenever you go back and finish—and she promised me she would—I said I’ll be there. I said ‘I want you to snatch the diploma out of my hand.’  And I said the reason I want you to snatch it is because once you get this, no one can take it from you.  But don’t you go out in the world and do something with it so that you have to give it back.”

Second Chance graduate Epsy Vanetta Robinson also received a very special presentation for a reward that has been nearly 40 years in the making.

“You heard her story, and how she should’ve been a graduate of 1978,” said Second Chance program director Rheta McClain. 

“We felt that it was only right that we bestow upon her an honorary Greenville High School diploma from 1978.”

McClain also offered thanks to the participants’ parents for their own perseverance.

“Thank you parents; every time we called, you answered,” McClain said. 

“Although they’re out of school, some of them 18, 19 and above, you answered your phones, and you worked with us so that this moment is possible.  So I thank you and celebrate all that you do to keep them engaged, as well.”