CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The second time proved to be the charm for more than 100 adults in Bradley County who this year earned high school diplomas or GED certificates.
REACH Adult Education Center held its graduation ceremony Friday evening.
While only 20 of those 100 walked across the stage at Lake Forest Middle School to receive their diplomas, the auditorium was packed with well-wishers.
"You are in control of who you are," Tammy Bishop, 33, told fellow graduates.
Brenda Moore, 56, worked 38 years in a factory after dropping out of school because of family financial hardships.
"We get stuck in a rut and just stay there," she said.
But then downswing caught up with her. She lost her job, but set herself a goal of completing her high school education.
"Just remember, you are never too old. And never say you are not smart enough," Moore said in her speech to fellow graduates.
"I thought I knew everything in the world," said Sharayah Fowler, 19, about dropping out of high school half way through her senior year. "I quickly learned I was wrong."
The graduates who spoke, and others too, talked about their teachers who worked with them through challenging schedules, always with encouragement.
"It takes a lot of courage for them to walk through our door, and we know that," said Zoe Renfro, principal of REACH Ådult High School.
The jobs that once waited for high school students who quit the classroom before getting their diplomas are no longer there, County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel told the graduates. "Education is a key in your pocket that will open doors," he said.
REACH Adult Education Center was created eight years ago by Bradley County schools, said Charlotte Samples, adult education coordinator. The center offers REACH Adult High School, GED programs and English as a Second Language.
"The door of opportunity is no longer closed," she told the graduates. "It is wide open for you."