Joy of Persistence: MATC GED/HSED Graduates Obtain Diplomas

Son’s graduation inspired student speaker to get his High School Equivalency Diploma

Mark Feldmann,

December 20, 2023

Adrian Jones Sr.

Learning feels amazing. It’s been a long journey, but I’m here.

Adrian Jones Sr. MATC HSED graduate

In the spring, Adrian Jones Sr. watched his son receive a high school diploma. While Jones’ heart soared with parental pride, his stomach roiled with deep disappointment in himself.

Two decades previously, the elder Jones dropped out of Milwaukee Public Schools’ Custer High School after his junior year and never returned. “As a teenager, classwork was challenging. I felt like I didn’t fit in,” Jones recalled.

But watching his son walk across the stage changed everything. “I knew I wanted to get my own diploma,” Jones said. “He inspired me and he motivated me. It was time.”

On December 18, Adrian Jones Jr., watched as his father and more than 300 other Milwaukee Area Technical College students received their General Education Development (GED) certificates and High School Equivalency Diplomas (HSED) at an energetic, exuberant graduation ceremony in MATC’s Cooley Auditorium at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus. 

See photos from the ceremony

The ceremony recognized students who graduated from MATC and the college’s community-based educational partners: Literacy Services of Wisconsin, Social Development Commission, UMOS Inc. and YWCA Southeast Wisconsin.

Jones, who earned his HSED at Literacy Services of Wisconsin, served as one of the two student speakers at the event. “I’m proud of you,” Jones told his son from the podium. “And I hope you’re proud of me.”

Jones told the crowd how his father left his family when he was young. Jones left school and went to work as a security guard to help support his mother and brother. “I had to grow up very fast,” he said.  

He was one of the oldest people in his HSED class, but he soon discovered the powerful effects of knowledge. “Learning feels amazing,” Jones said while wiping away tears. “It’s been a long journey, but I’m here.”

Shaquita Riser, the other student speaker, said she never gave up because she believed in herself. “Quitting is not an option for us,” she told the graduates. “I ask you to fight for your dreams, fight for your passions, fight for the life you want. Let’s show the world what we’re made of and what we’re capable of.”

For students like Jones and Riser, choosing to return to school might have been challenging, said MATC President Vicki J. Martin, Ph.D. “Yet you decided it was worth doing. You committed yourself to the effort, and today you are being recognized for your accomplishments,” she said.

Kenneth Harris, an award-winning Milwaukee radio talk show host, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony. Harris, who hosts “Truth in the Afternoon with Dr. Ken Harris,” on WGKB 101.7 FM, challenged the graduates to set goals, embrace challenges, grow from mistakes, value education, be an example to others and create the life they dream of. 

“If you think you’re beaten, you are,” Harris said. “Success begins in the mind. If you think you can, you will. Your resilience will be your greatest asset. Every great dream starts with a dreamer.”

Learn about MATC’s GED and HSED programs

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 30,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Adrian Jones with son