First Graduation Ceremony
for the Centro Hispano Marista
Marist Centennial Center • Marist School, Atlanta, Georgia
The first Graduation Ceremony for the Centro Hispano Marista was held at the Marist Centennial Center (Marist School, Atlanta, Georgia) on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 7 pm. Thirty-six students received their GED certificate and graduated. Their families, friends and classmates were in attendance.
The Centro Hispano was created in 2012 to address the educational and spiritual needs of the growing Hispanic immigrant population in Atlanta. The Centro provides a GED program that to date has registered over 950 Hispanic adults. Classes are held on Thursday evenings and are taught by 65 volunteers in 29 classrooms at the Marist School in Brookhaven. In addition, volunteers from the Marist School community help staff the Center and assist in the classrooms.
The keynote speaker was Lucio Parro, the valedictorian of the graduating class. Lucio is a 32-year-old construction supervisor.
On Thursdays, he would leave his construction crew in Tennessee and make the long drive to Marist to pursue his dream of obtaining a high school equivalency certificate. During his free time, he would pour over his schoolbook in his hotel room. "I knew it's not going to be easy, dealing with family, dealing with work. It's going to be a challenge, but the result is happiness," he remarked prior to his leading the graduates to their places of honor.
Salvador Arias, one of the key founders and who plays a pivotal role in overseeing the Centro, said that obtaining the GED can lead to being accepted for deferred action which is life-changing for immigrants. "They can legally get married, legally drive, legally work," he said. Many families have remained intact because they were enrolled in the GED classes.
Another graduate, Yolanda Abarca, 26, became pregnant while she was in high school and had to drop out. She took up the challenge to be both a good mother and a good student. Having obtained her GED certificate, she spoke of attending a community college and pursuing a degree in business administration. "I'm so nervous, so excited," she said, reflecting the sentiments shared by the other thirty-six graduates.
Fr. John Harhager, President of Marist School, praised the graduates for their perseverance and for the inspiration they were to their fellow students who dream of one day sitting where the graduates sat.
Bill Rowland, SM
Visit the Centro Hispano Marista website.
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