On June 5, three students at the Edna Hayden Gwaltney School received their high school diploma, and one received his GED certificate. Six students received their ServSafe food certificate and two their food occupation certificate of completion.
Dr. Bill Bowling, Director of Education, presided over the ceremony at the Golden Leaf Commons at the Southside Virginia Community College Emporia Campus. Mrs. Angela M. Carter was the commencement speaker.
Angela M. Carter, born and raised in Alberta, VA, is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Memory Chose a Woman's Body, a poetic journey and memoir that spotlights the effects of abuse, neglect and depression. An advocate of the healing ability of the arts, Mrs. Carter is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee, a nominee for the 2015 Virginia Library Literacy Award (poetry), a motivational speaker, an arts advocate, a painter and a photographer. Mrs. Carter lives in Harrisonburg with her husband, two children and a collection of pets.
Mrs. Carter - herself a victim of child abuse - shared her life story and spoke of her continuing struggle with mental illness. She urged the graduates to know that they are not alone in their daily struggles, and that they can make a difference in their lives. "Each new day is a new beginning. Don't give up. Don't convince yourself that you do not matter. And don't convince yourself that you cannot become the person you want to be, if you want to become someone new."
Over the last eighteen years, 149 students have graduated from the Gwaltney School with either a diploma or GED certificate. Each year, in honor and recognition of the student's work, an anonymous donor has provided a bouquet of roses for each girl, a wallet for each boy, and a gift card for each graduate.