‘It’s never too late to graduate,’ as determined scholars prove

Dorette Carsten, 73, is surrounded by her family, including her granddaughter Olivia Barrows, 13, who is wiping a tear.

There were 62 stories in the Mesa State College ballroom on Wednesday night when as many candidates strode across the stage to accept their General Education Development, or GED degrees.

The oldest graduate, 73-year-old Dorette Lee Carsten said she was encouraged by her family, who convinced her to go for it.

“The thing of it is, it’s never too late to graduate,” she said before heading inside the ballroom to face a cheering crowd.

About 430 students passed the high school equivalency exam in 2010-2011. The tests are administered by the Mesa State College Testing and Prometic Center.

Jim Schaeffer and Felix Padilla attended Wednesday’s ceremony to support Ciara Rachelle Lambert. The 20-year-old worked for years at McDonald’s, even while she was pregnant with her now five-month-old son. She made it a priority to get her degree though her commute was a 25-mile drive, Schaeffer said.

“She had a lot on her plate,” he said. “She could have stayed home and not done anything. She was a good student but she didn’t go the conventional route. I’m very proud of her.”

Debbie Jean Duval always chickened out when it came to getting her GED diploma, though not having the certificate caused her to lose a number of jobs along the way.

The 52-year-old waitress at Denny’s said getting her degree is an inspiration for her four children.

What prompted her?

“I finally had somebody who believed in me,” she said.

Valedictorian Sara Juliann Hedrick had attended Fruita High School’s graduation the night before. It was a bizarre feeling watching friends she had gone to school with graduate without her, she said.

Hedrick said she had plotted her academic studies from a young age, thinking she would graduate high school a year or maybe two earlier. The straight-A student had aspirations to head to Oxford University and studying physics or philosophy.

But Hedrick said during her speech that those plans changed somewhere along the way. She never thought she’d be one to her GED, in lieu of a high school diploma.

“It was either run away and join the circus or get a diploma,” she said. “No matter how awesome the circus might be I think I made the right choice.”


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