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'Anything is possible’: MTI graduates make families proud

PALMETTO — When Bradenton resident Angela Casadonte was laid off from her position as an Office Max supervisor last year, she wasn’t sure what to do to support herself and her infant son.

So she decided on a different career path.

“The economy was so bad, I wanted to go into a field where I knew people were needed,” said the 23-year-old. “The medical field seemed as if it was in need more than any other.”

She soon attended Manatee Technical Institute to become a medical administrative specialist.

And on Tuesday night, after six months of hitting the books and tests, she walked across the stage of the Manatee County Civic Center as one of 2,253 members of the MTI graduating Class of 2009,

Of the rest of the class, 789 people received their licenses for jobs including nursing and law enforcement, and 1,792 graduated in career and technical education programs,

Also, 440 received their General Educational Development certificates and 21 got diplomas for completing an English for speakers of other languages program.

And, an additional 1003 completed part of the program and reached an occupational completion point.

“Those people have reached a point where they can go to work and continue their education at the same time,” said Mary Cantrell, director of MTI.

“Our main purpose is to get you a job ... to get you employed and still continue your education.”

Kamarie Duffell, who obtained her GED from MTI, was one of four keynote speakers Tuesday.

Duffell told the audience that she dropped out of high school her senior year because she had her daughter on spring break that year.

Her family, she said, encourage her to get a degree.

“If you work hard enough and never give up, anything is possible,” Duffell said.

MTI Board of Governors Chairman John Ziemnicki encouraged graduates not to be nervous as they enter the workforce.

“At the end of the day you will be judged by your gallop, not your stumble,” he said.

Casodonte, who graduated with honors, wore a white tassel on her hat and white sash around her that read National Vocational Technical Honors Society.

“My parents (Linda and Joseph Casadonte) are proud of me,” she said.

More important, she said she is proud of herself.

“I am a single mother of a 4-year old boy and it’s a great accomplishment to show him what can be done if you put your mind to it,” Casadonte said.

After graduating, she said she planned to send out her resume to Bradenton employers.

“I’m hoping to get into billing and coding or working the front office of a doctor or even working in a hospital,” she said. “There’s a slew of opportunities available,” she said laughing.