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Never Too Late
Thanks to the Johns Hopkins Skills Enhancement Program—and steely determination—dozens of employees have earned Maryland State High School diplomas.

blank Proud grads
Proud grads at Hopkins' first high school graduation recognition ceremony

It’s a familiar image: A graduating high school senior rises to accept a diploma as her mother reaches for a tissue. But at the first-ever high school graduation recognition ceremony for Hopkins employees in July, the scene played out a little differently. Two teenage siblings beamed as their mother, Rae Scalise, walked across the stage in her cap and gown to receive her graduation recognition certificate. 

 Scalise, a patient financial services collector, was one of about 60 Hopkins employees to take instruction through skills enhancement and earn a diploma during the past 10 years or so. The graduates had already received their official diplomas, but Barbara Edwards, Skills Enhancement manager, thought they deserved an honorary ceremony as well. It was a chance to participate in a tradition many had never before experienced. “I got to wear a cap and gown,” Scalise says. “That was a big deal.”

Featured Hospital speakers included Deborah Knight-Kerr, director of community and education projects, Hospital and Health System President Ron Peterson, and Pamela Paulk, human resources vice president. The keynote speaker was Michael Miller, U.S. ambassador for adult education, who drew on his personal faith and own experiences as a GED graduate—and is now a Ph.D. candidate.

Graduates Viola Perry, a support associate in the medical intensive care unit, and Lamont Watson, who works in the mail center, delivered the commencement addresses. Both recounted their personal paths. Perry only achieved her goal after she realized that she wanted a diploma for herself 38 years after she left school. Watson, 45, quit school in 7th grade. He tried repeatedly to earn his GED but only succeeded at Hopkins. Edwards, he recalls, “saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

The journey to these diplomas was arduous, considering how long it had been since many of these employees had attended school, observes Edwards, who’s coordinated the program since 1995. (It’s funded in part by Project REACH, a workforce development program subsidized by the U.S. Department of Labor.) Accelerated levels of the program require four days a week in a three-hour class—held in Phipps 3—for an average of 12 to 18 months. Qualified participants are excused from their jobs to attend school while maintaining their full salaries.

“Getting my diploma was the best feeling, besides having my kids,” says Scalise, who began her studies so that she would qualify to work full time in her department. Her supervisor, Amy Bedard, has been impressed with the results. “I notice confidence in her work,” she says, “and a stride in her steps that I never saw before.”
Like Scalise, many GED graduates continue to work at Hopkins, finding new rewards in higher-skilled positions.

“We want to grow our own,” Edwards says, “and these grads have taken root.”

 –Maia Gottlieb

For information about earning a diploma, call 410-614-0273.

Anne Bennett Swingle



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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