Laconia Academy graduates 32 who've built a second chance for themselves

LACONIA — Included in the 32 adults who got their high school diplomas last night at the Laconia Academy graduation ceremony, at least two woman have very different reasons for earning degrees.
Kesha Clark, the 24-year-old married mother of one, wants to be a U.S. Marine, but the Marines rarely if ever consider anyone who doesn't have a high school diploma.
"They gave me such a hard time. They told me I would have to score a 50 or above on the ASVAB (if she had a high-school equivalency not a diploma)," Clark said.
The ASVAB or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is a timed, multi-disciplined test given to all people who want to join the military. A 50 means scoring at or above 50 percent of the people taking the test at that time. Laconia Academy provides classes where primarily adults can earn the high school credits they need to graduate from high-school.
Clark said she grew up in upstate New York and though went to high school and did very well she never took the Regents Exam — a test that must be passed by all New Yorkers who want a high school diploma.
"It's like, the most important thing," she said referring to the Regents.
She said she never took the tests because she was caring for a sick relative and then her husband joined the Marines and she left to be with him. Now, at 24 she is too old to graduate with a regular high-school diploma in New Hampshire and because she no longer lives in New York, she can't take the Regents test.
For Clark, earning her high school diploma was just one of the hurdles she faces in becoming a Marine.
She was told that she needed to lose 40 pounds and did and has already passed the Marine Corps physical. She also has a child and a husband who is a retired Marine, which gives her two dependents.
Although her husband served for eight years and was deployed to the Middle East twice, she said she thinks it's also her duty to become a Marine and serve her country.
Diane Sargent worked for years at a local plumbing company. From Meredith, she said she should have graduated in 1981 from Inter-Lakes High School.
"I was a stupid teenager," she said. "I skipped school to be with my boyfriend."
Sargent and her "boyfriend" have been married for 33 years and have raised three daughters. She said a high school diploma was "always just a piece of paper" to her because until now she never had any problems finding employment.
With years of experience in plumbing scheduling, billing and administrative coordination, she said while recently looking for a new job, she never made it past the front door with her high school diploma.
Always someone who loved to read, she took mathematics, English and Economics to earn the three credits she needed for her diploma in one semester.
One of the older students in her class, she said she played to role of "school mother" to many of the students and enjoyed meeting them.
Sargent's husband and three daughters, who she said were all very supportive of her, attended her ceremony.