Alex Miller, 18, has been home-schooled all his life, but that came to an end for him and 70 other home-school students Saturday at a graduation ceremony at Abba's House in Hixson.
"I'm a little nervous, but I'm excited because I guess I'll be leaving home," Mr. Miller said. "I'm pretty excited about college and getting out into the world and getting on with my life."
Mr. Miller also said he was grateful for the opportunity to be home-schooled.
"I have to say from what I've seen from other kids who have gone to public schools that I'm really glad I was home schooled because I feel that I was able to be close to my family and pursue what I was really interested in," he said.
The procession took place in the chapel's main sanctuary, where many graduates walked arm-in-arm with their parents.
The ceremony, presented by the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Chapter of the Tennessee Home Education Association, included special performances by several graduates, including two violin solos, a ballet segment, a vocal solo and two vocal groups.
One highlight was the student address by Meaghan Rhea Jones, 18, who encouraged her fellow graduates to work hard in the next stage of their lives.
"Some of us may become doctors, some of us lawyers and many of us mothers and fathers," she said in her address to the crowd. "But we must always remember that we are always teachers. Whether we realize it or not, people are always looking up to us, just as we look up to our parents."
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., gave the graduation address and encouraged graduates to have courage and give courage to those they will encounter in their future.
"We liberate others when we have the courage to overcome our own fears," he said. "Have courage. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions in the world. Love overcomes fear every time, but have courage. Do not be afraid."
When receiving diplomas, each student walked across the chapel stage with a rose and a pocket Bible in hand.
Parents lined up near the stage to hug and congratulate their new graduate once he or she left the stage.
Students then handed their rose to one of their parents as a sign of thanks for their teaching and support.
Inez and Paul Ketron said they were proud of their daughter, Haven, 18, for all her hard work.
"Our situation was a little unique because I work full time," said Ms. Ketron, who also oversaw most of Haven's studies. "I would set her lessons up, and she would do them during the day, and in the evening I would check them and go over things she was unclear of."
Mr. Ketron said he believed home-schooling was a good fit for his daughter.
"She's a creative sort, and I think that (home-schooling) enables her to reach into some areas and do some things she might not have gotten an opportunity to do otherwise," he said.
Following the ceremony, graduates enjoyed a reception with their family and friends.