A Lawrence teen earned her GED while working full-time and dealing with a pregnancy.
The days of playing hooky at Lone Star Lake don't seem as fun as they once did for Sara Neuburger, 19. But when she was at Lawrence High School, skipping class to hang out with friends at the lake was a thrill that became a habit.
In the parlor of Hannah's House, a shelter for unwed, teen-age mothers, she recounted straightforwardly where missing school led.
"When I was 18, I moved out of my parents' (house) for certain reasons, and then I just hung out with the wrong crowd, dropped out, got pregnant, moved in here and decided to get my GED."
On Wednesday, Neuburger donned a cap and gown and accepted her General Educational Development diploma along with 30 other graduates who gathered with their families at South Junior High School.
Linda McGuire, coordinator of the Adult Learning Center, said 186 students passed tests this year to earn GEDs, equivalent to a high school diploma.
Among the graduates were 10 families involved with Even Start, a federal literacy program for both parents and children up to 7 years old.
Cris Anderson, the local Even Start coordinator, said she hoped the program would foster in the families the value of earning a diploma. The children watched the ceremony Wednesday.
"They might say, 'I remember watching my mom graduate.' It becomes something internal that they strive for," Anderson said.
Neuburger's son, Austin, is a month and three days old.
Neuburger said motivating herself to go to the learning center became most difficult when she was nine months pregnant. She had bouts of morning sickness, and she had to juggle a full-time job at Taco Bell.
"There were times when I didn't want to go to school. They pushed me, and I'm glad they did now," she said.
Her plans are to move back home in August and pursue courses at either Johnson County Community College or Kansas University. Her dream is to open her own day-care center.
"I've been babysitting since I was 12," she said.
Earning a diploma will not end her struggles. She and her parents will have to learn how to get along, which will take compromise, she said.
Although she has made strides, she regrets not staying in school and hopes other women her age won't take the same difficult path.
"If they were about to drop out of school, I would definitely tell them to stay in," she said. She knows how hard that advice is to swallow. "I'd probably never have listened."