BIDDEFORD — For one Biddeford family, Wednesday evening’s Biddeford Adult Education graduation ceremony is a 25-year lesson in the power of perseverance and a determination to realize a better future.

Back in 1994, Tina Bruns was a student at Portland High School when she became pregnant and dropped out. She stayed home and cared for her newborn son, Nicholas, and then a year later, Bruns gave birth to a daughter, Ashleigh, who was followed two years after that by another son, Terry.

Trying to make ends meet with three young children and not ever really feeling comfortable in the classroom, Bruns gave up on earning her high school diploma and instead turned her concentration to raising her children.

“School just wasn’t for me,” Bruns said. “I was really shy and I just couldn’t make it work no matter what I did.”

Although she wanted the best for her children, as they grew up they all followed her down the same path. Nicholas Bruns has anxiety and always felt uncomfortable in a classroom setting. He never finished high school, and neither did his sister or his brother.

But then something remarkable happened.


“I started attending classes at Biddeford Adult Education in 2012 and came and went a few times before just finally deciding to just stick with it and see what would happen,” said Ashleigh Ouellette, now 24. “I earned my certified nursing assistant certification and set a goal to enlist in the U.S. Army, but to do that, I needed to obtain a high school diploma.”

To support and encourage her daughter, Tina Bruns also returned to classes at Biddeford Adult Education and earned her CNA certification at the same time as her daughter. Both of her sons, Terry Nowlin, now 22, and Nicholas Bruns, now 25, also attended classes at Biddeford Adult Education and it has transformed their lives.

“The people at Biddeford Adult Education are amazing,” said Tina Bruns. “They really are like family to us.”

Nowlin found a renewed interest in school at Biddeford Adult Education.

“I went to a lot of schools and none of them fit me,” he said. “But now I want to go on to college and study video game design. I’d like to go to college in Florida.”

Nicholas Bruns has been attending classes at Biddeford Adult Education since 2016 and said his favorite class was a history course.


“That was fun, but the best part of going back to school was actually doing that with my family,” he said. “The people at Biddeford Adult Education truly are special. They went above and beyond to help us and all I can say is that school is amazing.”

And as the names of graduates were called Wednesday evening at Biddeford High School, all four members of the Bruns family realized their decades-long dream to become high school graduates, thus ending a long journey once considered to be out of the realm of possibility for any of them.

In speaking to all of the graduates who earned diplomas on Wednesday night, Biddeford Adult Education Director Paulette Bonneau said she was proud of their achievements, both personally and academically.

“What this speaks to me is that it takes courage,” Bonneau said. “You made a choice, took a chance and made a change.”

She said that change began when the graduates stepped out of their comfort zone and became active learners.

“I never thought I’d make it or see this day,” Tina Bruns said. “We all got through this together and we’ve truly got something to celebrate. It shows you can do anything you set your mind to do. And if I can do it so long after leaving school, anyone can.”


Her daughter  said the lesson that others can learn from their family is really very simple.

“Just never give up,” Ouellette said.


Ed Pierce – 282-1535 

[email protected]

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