Burbank resident David Standel was scheduled to graduate from high school in 1961 before a series of complicated family issues forced him to drop out.
He worked a variety of jobs, including at his father’s restaurant and later as a computer systems administrator, but he never completely gave up on his education.
“The idea was always in the back of my head to complete high school,” Standel said. “It is just a feeling of missing something — that part of my life was just missing.”
On Wednesday, the now 69-year-old Standel queued up alongside other Burbank Adult School students, many half his age, to do what he couldn’t a half century earlier: accept his high school diploma.
The commencement ceremony at the Luther Burbank Middle School auditorium was proof that adult education remains more relevant than ever. The Burbank Adult School graduating class was another record, with 98 high school diploma recipients and 63 general education diploma recipients, said Principal Joe Stark.
“We are seeing more and more of a demand for these programs every year,” Stark said. “We have actually seen record numbers of graduate for the last three years.”
The school has focused on augmenting its college counseling offerings, and now many of the graduates are headed to college, said Lily Duong, a career college counselor at the site.
“We want them to gun for higher education,” Duong said. “I push my students. I make sure they are on track.”
The life stories of the students are as diverse as their ages, Duong said. Some dropped out of school after repeated moves. Others faced unforeseen health and family issues. Yet all of them found the motivation to get back to the classroom.
“This is so emotional for the students,” Duong said.
Tanya Cruz, 26, was among those earning high school diplomas Wednesday. The oldest of eight children, she was responsible for her younger siblings growing up. And when she got pregnant at 17, school became impossible.
Now, she plans to enroll at College of the Canyons in the fall with her sights set on a career in nursing.
“I have always wanted my high school diploma, this was a goal of mine,” Cruz said. “I wanted to show my kids if I can do it, they can do it. I had to do it for them and show them don’t give up no matter what.”