Forty-five people on Thursday night received their General Educational Development diplomas through Lawrence public schools.
Children wriggled in parents' laps, "Pomp and Circumstance" filled the auditorium at Southwest Junior High and relieved graduates received their General Educational Development (GED) diplomas Thursday night.
"I noticed when you came in you were all wearing big smiles," Asst. Supt. Randy Weseman said at the beginning of the program. "And rightly so."
Forty-five GED recipients came to the ceremony, as did about 200 friends and family members. Linda McGuire, Lawrence public schools adult learning center coordinator, said it was the largest turnout in the decade-old history of the ceremony.
Shortly after the graduates settled into their seats, several children -- who are involved with their parents in a program called Even Start -- took the stage to sing a tune they had practiced. Wide-eyed with stage fright, the children could only muster a word or two. They were applauded heartily and happily nonetheless.
All students in the GED program, for one reason or another, were not able to obtain the standard high school diploma. Keynote speaker Dianne Glass reminded them of the courage they displayed in seeking to complete their high school education. The graduates persevered, she said, when many others in similar circumstances did not.
Graduate speaker Janet Riley said that, before Thursday, she had spent 15 years without a diploma. She expressed relief after completing her final seven electives.
"Your education, it must be filled," Riley told the graduates. "Don't leave it empty."
Two of the graduates were able to reflect on more than just individual achievement.
Siblings Tina Sleeper, 19, and Dale Sleeper, 21, completed their GED requirements together. Both finished last year.
"I was just waiting for the cap and gown," Dale Sleeper said.