Stories of second chances and continuation dominated Burbank Adult School’s graduation ceremony at Luther Burbank Middle School’s auditorium on Wednesday afternoon.
A brief, one-hour ceremony included awards and speeches, along with the handing out of 54 high school diplomas or equivalency certificates as the school wrapped up its 90th anniversary.
“It really is what energizes you in terms of your career and the mission to serve the community,” said Emilio Urioste Jr., director of adult education, before the graduation ceremony.
“For me, getting to see them here, and then as you hear the speakers and the stories that they will have to tell, it really does tell you that we do serves a purpose, and we’re really meeting a need in the community,” he added.
One of the more emotional speeches was delivered by 35-year-old Melissa Mota, a mother of four.
Mota dropped out of high school at 17 years old during her senior year and was caring for two children by age 20.
While she found employment, almost every good-paying job she applied for required a high school diploma.
Earlier this year, Mota brought her high-school transcripts to the Burbank Adult School and found out she only needed one class to graduate, which she completed in six weeks.
“I’m pursuing a career in healthcare administration and will be enrolling in junior college in the fall,” she said. “I just want to tell you guys that it’s never too late.”
Former Burroughs High student Jake Casaus, 21, said traditional schooling “didn’t work out as he planned.”
Nonetheless, the student speaker still earned his diploma and said he was grateful for the help he received from school staff.
“We weren’t walking into another classroom hoping for a second chance,” Casaus said.
“Because of them, we were walking into a productive environment where we can finish what we started in a more supportive and suitable circumstance.”
Sun Valley resident Sayda Lozano, who received a scholarship to the adult school’s information-technology training program, said her daughter and son were her motivation to finish.
“I took me 1½ years, but I did it for my kids,” she said. “I wanted to be an example.”
North Hollywood resident Edgar Andrade needed two classes over three months to finish and receive a diploma.
“One reason getting the diploma was for me, but this triumph isn’t mine alone,” Andrade said. “My family played a big role.”
There were also scholarships handed out Wednesday.
Burbank Adult School awarded Skyy Shorty and Paula Chavez full rides to the school’s certified nursing-assistant program. Marisol Diaz was given the Burbank Teachers Assn. scholarship, and Yamilka Fernandez was honored with a scholarship from the Learning Adult School chapter of the California Council for Adult Education.