CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Some of Bradley County’s most motivated students are spending Christmas with a new diploma.
They graduated from the county’s REACH Adult High School Saturday evening.
This is a high school where extracurricular activities include holding a job, caring for families and inspiring younger students at home by getting the homework done.
REACH passes its five-year milestone this year since its creation by the Bradley County Board of Education. Some of its earliest students have gone on to earn college degrees and begin new careers.
Two years ago the school combined a GED program with its high school program, creating a one-stop adult education center.
Joe Coffman returned to the classroom after 26 years away. He drives a truck and could only be in the classroom on Fridays. The rest of the week, he studied on the road, calling in his questions about lessons.
“You have to go back and relearn everything,” he said.
For Cindy Coleman, recovering from an accident put her behind in high school.
“I had a car accident and it caused me to be out of school a long time. I was going to have to go to school and extra year and I didn’t want to do that,” she said.
She got tired of looking for work and returned to school. She took the GED test and passed in the 80 percentile and already is studying pharmacy technology.
“You now have the keys to open doors that were closed before,” Johnny McDaniel, Bradley County schools director, told graduates and their families and friends gathered at Ocoee Middle School for the ceremony.
Dr. Richard Baker, a county school board member, told graduates his own father created a career in the Army Air Corps and went with the Air Force when it became its own branch of service in World War II. His dad later worked his way into a high position with the then-new National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He told the graduates his father, like himself, would be proud of the determination they represented.
Patty Lauren Turpin gave the graduation address.
“Take time tonight to thank all of those who have held our hands and encouraged us over the years,” she told fellow graduates.
“For those who tell you that you can’t climb the highest mountains of your dreams. That you are not smart enough, that you are not good looking enough, you are not popular enough, are wrong,” she said. “Do not be dismayed by those words. Let them be fire starters for you.”
The changing employment scene in the region was on many minds Saturday night.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, and Mr. McDaniel reiterated that new industrial jobs, both those known to be coming here and those expected to be announced soon, will require high school education or beyond.
Mr. Brooks said an earlier visit this year to REACH “was such an eye-opener and inspirational for me.”
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...