NAUGATUCK — Last year, Bailey Messenger found herself skipping several days at Naugatuck High School and putting her priorities in places other than education.
She eventually dropped out and enrolled in the Naugatuck Adult Education program.
“There is no drama; the students are mature and everyone is there to do one thing: graduate to improve their lives,” she said.
Messenger, 18, of Naugatuck, took the same approach. She worked diligently toward her diploma and it paid off. On Thursday, she was one of 26 students who graduated from the program during a ceremony at Naugatuck High School.
The school serves students ages 17 and older from Naugatuck, Wolcott and Oxford. They offer an adult high school credit diploma; a general educational development diploma, or GED; a National External Diploma Program; Adult Basic Education; English Language Acquisition; and a Citizenship program.
Not all of the students who graduated are listed on the school’s program because students have the option of going confidentially, said Heather Pelletier, program director.
She said this year’s graduates were unique in that they bonded together across the various diploma programs.
“Many of them worked to help one another, which was great to see,” she said.
Messenger tutored another student this year, which was one of the many reasons she was honored as an outstanding graduate and received a scholarship, Pelletier said.
“She came in kind of like a woman on a mission,” she said of Messenger. “She knew that day school wasn’t working, so she came right to us, buckled down and wouldn’t allow herself any excuses to not make it to the finish line.”
In a speech during the graduation ceremony, Messenger spoke not only of her own accomplishments but those of the entire class.
“That’s just the type of person Bailey is,” Pelletier said. “She is very selfless.”
Messenger said she would recommend the program to anyone who may have had trouble in traditional high school.
“I really enjoy the staff and faculty,” she said. “They are very open-minded about students and their situations, and they really support you.”
If you asked her a year ago what her life’s ambition was, Messenger said she could not have told you. But ask her now, and she has a plan: she will study nursing and social work at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury.
“At this point last year, I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing,” she said. “But now I do, and I’m happy about it.”