During the Cumberland Academy/Adult Basic Education Graduation Ceremony at North Clay Middle School, students received their diplomas and General Education Diplomas (GED), which Cumberland Principal Lisa Showalter said they should take to heart as being honorable.
"Be proud of what you've achieved, and take full advantage of what this diploma offers you," she said during the ceremony.
Showalter added this is the first year that all the seniors graduating from Cumberland had met all the necessary requirements to do so.
"Sometimes in the past, we had a few who did not pass the ISTEP+ at the time of graduation," she told The Brazil Times. "But I am very proud of this group of students and all their accomplishments."
Keynote speaker and recently retired counselor, Julie Romas, told the graduates that receiving a high school diploma is, "one of the greatest milestones in your life," and offered up a few tips to carry with them into the world.
"The way I see things, I only have two things that you graduates don't, which is age and experience," Romas said.
She told the graduates the two biggest bits of advice she could give them is to take their time in relationships, and to realize there is no substitute for hard work.
"These students already know the benefits and accomplishments of hard work," she said. "They have climbed mountains, met numerous challenges and persevered to get where they are today."
The students then took center stage during the ceremony as Cumberland graduate April Knox and Sarah Sisk fought back emotions to speak about their experiences and to thank everyone who helped them along the way.
"When I first came to Cumberland, the staff showed me a whole new light," Knox said.
For Sisk, the ceremony was the culmination of more than a decade of never giving up on her goal of receiving a diploma.
"I had quit school, but I realized I had to make a decision for my child," she said. "There were a lot of people who believed in me and stood by my side along the way."
After a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go," by the staff of Cumberland and Adult basic Education, graduates Timothy Toland and Iain McCoy, along with Toland's brother, Justin, presented a musical performance of "My Best Days," which commenced in a standing ovation.
Sarah Thomas presented Knox, McCoy and Krystal Kirton with awards through the Jobs for America's Graduates program, which was started this past semester.
Showalter then presented Christopher Kyle with his GED Honor Diploma prior to the presentation of diplomas by Clay Community School Corporation Superintendent Dan Schoeder.
During her speech, Romas advised the graduates to continue their hard work and they will go far.