September 16, 2021

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  – The West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE) Office of Technical and Adult Education held its 25th annual Adult Education Awards Ceremony yesterday afternoon to recognize the efforts of those committed to the success of adult learners in the state. West Virginia native and America’s Got Talent winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. made a surprise appearance to present student awards and share a message of hope and perseverance. The singer/songwriter used his COVID-19 downtime to earn his high school equivalency last year. Following the ceremony, a room divider was removed revealing Murphy’s orchestra, and he performed a concert to recognize those honored and those participating in the adult education program.

Six students were honored in the following categories:

Adult Education Student of the Year

  • Adam Edens, Putnam County Adult Learning Center
  • Gabrielle Washington, Mineral County Adult Education

SPOKES (Strategic Planning in Occupational Knowledge for Employment and Success) Student of the Year

  • Laura “Chelle” Ferguson, Jefferson County SPOKES
  • Sandra Glover, Marion County SPOKES

ESL (English as Second Language) Student of the Year

  • Solomon Asfha, Hardy County ESL
  • Afaf Akil, Kanawha County/Garnet Career Center ESL

Additionally, 35 counties were recognized and granted awards for performance, innovation, facility enhancement and academic success. A full list of award winners can be found here.

“It is so important to take time to recognize our students and counties who are dedicated to fostering productive employment, personal and family growth and dignity for adult learners,” Mendy Marshall, director of the Office of Adult Education, said. “These students are non-traditional learners who may have not had good k-12 experiences and have had to work much harder to achieve their goals. Landau is one example of how hard work and dedication can change someone’s life for the better. We are tremendously proud of their efforts, and we look forward to all they accomplish in the future.”

Video of the ceremony and Murphy’s performance is available upon request. To learn more about the Office of Adult Education, or to explore adult education programs throughout the state, visit or call the hotline at 800-642-2670.

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or by emailing

Follow the WVDE on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.