Cheers filled the auditorium of Muncie Central High School as the Muncie Area Career Center adult education program’s class of 2019 graduates walked across the stage.

Graduates were smiling, dancing and one even doing a backflip off of the stage Thursday evening.

One graduate upon receiving her diploma screamed, raised her hands in the air and waved them in celebration. 

“I’m overexcited,” said Angela Bennett over the cheers of her family as she made her way for another round of photos. 

Bennett was part of the adult education program for about eight months. She said her biggest challenge in the program was just showing up to class. But that was far from the biggest hurdle she faced in her life.

Bennett was addicted to opioids and pain pills for 13 years, but by Nov. 23, she said she would be two years sober. 

Her addiction started when her doctor prescribed her Vicodin for pain, she said in her speech to the graduating class. She liked the way it made her feel. 

“It was easy to buy them off the streets,” Bennett said. “It started slowly but eventually my life spiraled out of control.” 

Her addiction caused her to steal from her family and be involved in car accidents. She said she watched friends die from overdoses. 

“I could not function without the drugs,” Bennett said. “I was sick without them. My family and kids had to see me high, even to the point I was nodding off.”

Bennett credited her faith in God for helping put an end to her addiction.

“I dropped down on my knees and prayed really hard for God to help me,” Bennett said. 

Even though she had made up her mind to be sober, she said it didn’t happen instantly.

“When I hit rock bottom I started my recovery,” Bennett said. “I was very sick from the withdrawals for weeks but I rested in God and got through it.”

She started her education with the adult education program a few months after she stopped using opioids.

Angela Bennett celebrates as she walks down the stage to receive her diploma during the Adult Education Program Class of 2019 Graduation in the Muncie Central  High Auditorium May 9, 2019. Bennett was one of the student speakers at the event. Scott Fleener, DN

After receiving her diploma, Bennett was hugged by her friends and family. She was visibly excited, moving her hands up a down and placing her right hand on her heart from time to time to take a breath. She rushed her voice as she reflected on how far she had come. 

“I’m just trying to keep my mind stable,” Bennett said. “You just don’t know how far I’ve come.”

Bennett said she let go of people in her life to stay clean and became focused on earning her high school equivalency. She would catch the bus through all weather conditions — rain, snow and sleet. 

“Before my dad passed away, he said, ‘Angela you want to get it this time because you want it so bad and you have a different mindset,’” she said.

Her teachers, Bennet said, were positive and believed in her even when she didn’t believe in herself.

Eight months after she took her exam to earn her high school equivalency, she failed the math portion. But giving up wasn’t an option and she worked with the staff of the Muncie Area Career Center. After taking it for the fourth time, she passed. 

“I screamed and cried when I saw those test scores,” Bennett said throwing her hands up in celebration as the crowd cheered.

The adult education program helps people get to the next level, she said. 

“What I like about adult ed is it gives people second, third, fourth, 10th chances and they can finally get it done,” said Nancy Muncey, interim dean of the Muncie Area Career Center.

Bennett is unsure what she wanted to do next, but said she wants to keep elevating herself. 

“She should be a motivational speaker,” said a family member who was standing close by supporting her. 

Bennett laughed and said that is one of her goals and she wanted to write a book. 

“I want to be so many far level ahead from where I am now,” Bennett said.

Contact Scott Fleener with comments at jsfleener@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Scott_Reports.