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Holly Stek is a 45-year-old woman who had a very good career for 13 years. Upon leaving that career, she had faced the stigma that was attached to not having her high school diploma. She decided to face that stigma by enrolling in the GED course at Flagler Technical Institute/Adult and Community Education.
Wednesday night, Stek walked across the stage at the Flagler Auditorium to receive her GED diploma.
“I think the most important thing I learned, is I just turned 45 years old, and shame and fear are obstacles that can be overcome, and when they are, you are on a road to freedom and opportunity,” Stek said.
Stek was one of more than 80 individuals to receive their GED that night. In addition, there were six English as a Second Language graduates. Flagler Technical Institute also handed out more than 100 diplomas from technical programs, including phlebotomy, emergency medical technician, firefighter, child care center operations, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, cosmetology and commercial vehicle driving.
Before enrolling in the GED program, Stek worked for 13 years as a corporate restaurant manager in Naples. She left when she was on the high side of the wave because she knew that job wouldn’t last forever.
“I knew at 55 and 65, I wouldn’t be able to do that job,” she said. “Preparing for my future was a necessity.”
But in order to do that, she would have to face her fear of going back to school.
“When I walked in that school for the first time, my heart was pounding,” Stek said.
Stek said she felt a growth that occurred while in school — not only educationally, but with humanity. With a diverse classroom, there were many life lessons learned in addition to the book work.
“There aren’t many opportunities people have to get outside of their circle, and this was a snapshot of humanity that I hadn’t been able to see,” Stek said. “It really inspired me for growth that was far beyond what I thought it would ever be. I have to give the school kudos. Bringing that much diversity into one room and being able to pull the best out of each individual is an accomplishment.”
Stek’s next step is going to college. With the help of the Sam and Shirley Newton Scholarship from the Rotary Club of Flagler Beach, Stek plans to major in computer science and engineering and minor in education.
Other graduates who received scholarships are as follows: Twila Woods, Rotary Club of Flagler Beach; John Fitton, awarded the William A. Thompson; Donald Gilbert, Flagler County Chamber Foundation; Adolfo Martinez Jr., The Lions Club of Palm Coast; and Christian Wagner, the Kiwanis Club of Flagler/Palm Coast.