Wednesday, May 8, 2002
Payoff time for GED students
By CINDI BROWNFIELD | News-Journal Education Writer
DAYTONA BEACH — Like many of his classmates, Harry Patrinelli spent seven hours a day, for months on end, attending classes in English, math, science and social studies in pursuit of a GED diploma.
But Patrinelli is no typical high school student.
Waiting for the diploma
Harry Patrineli, 90, waits with other graduates for the DBCC GED ceremony to begin at Peabody Auditorium. (Photo: News-Journal/Pam Lockeby)
The Ormond Beach man, who graduated Tuesday from Daytona Beach Community College's adult education program, is 90 years old.
His explanation for why he went back to school, while most of his friends are kicking back in their recliners or lounging by the pool, is simple.
"The main reason for this is to keep my mind occupied and to keep me out of the rocking chair. From there it's just a hop, skip and a jump to the grave," said Patrinelli, who is the oldest person to ever earn a General Educational Development or high school diploma from DBCC. He lives in Ormond Beach with his wife, Carole.
The graduation ceremony for the 1,275 adults who earned their GEDs through DBCC during the 2001-2002 school year was Tuesday night at Peabody Auditorium.
Also earning their GEDs were Curtis French of Port Orange and his adult children, 19-year-old Christina French and 28-year-old Curtis French II. The trio marched together.
Patrinelli actually graduated from high school back in 1930 in Massachusetts, and went to college to become an industrial engineer. He worked for a plastics factory that made pink flamingo yard decorations. But Patrinelli lost his diploma when he retired to Florida in 1974, and thought the $100 replacement fee was too expensive.
He decided to go for a GED in 2000 because he needed a diploma to take a real estate course.
Patrinelli took the classes for eight months, alongside classmates young enough to be his great-grandchildren.
"It was crazy at first because some of the kids were out of this world, really," said Patrinelli, who complained that some students slept in class.
He passed the test on his first attempt, almost a year ago.
Patrinelli recently finished the real estate course, too, but has yet to pass the licensing exam. He was sidelined for a couple of months this spring after being injured in a car accident. But he said last week he's almost ready to try again.
The French family of Port Orange had a lot to celebrate Tuesday, as well.
Curtis French and his son and daughter went back to school together in August 2000, said the elder French, 46, who dropped out of high school in Ithaca, N.Y., to go to work.
Christina passed the exam after just a month of classes. The two men, who work together at M.C. Mieth Manufacturers in Port Orange, continued classes for several months and passed the GED test in December.
Somehow, Christina missed graduation last spring, so DBCC allowed her to attend Tuesday's ceremony with her dad and brother.
"I'm ecstatic. It's great," said Arlene French, the proud wife and mother. The Frenches' middle child, Daniel, graduated from Atlantic High and attends ITT Technical Institute in Maitland. So, now, the entire family has finished high school.
"I am very happy," Curtis French said.
DBCC's adult high school and GED classes are free and run year-round. Classes are offered during the day and at night. For more information, call: (386) 254-3034; (386) 668-2993; or (386) 427-3472.