Man Gia "Wendy" Holmes yearns to be a pharmacist.
Nathan Moses simply wants to fulfill a promise to his parents.
All took big steps toward those personal goals Wednesday by completing requirements of a General Educational Development, or GED, diploma through the Lawrence school district's adult learning program.
Nearly 30 members of this year's 117-student class received certificates during a recognition ceremony at Free State High School.
Morgan's wife, Noreena, and their 3-year-old daughter, Brittany, watched as Heath, now 21, walked across the stage. A gifted high school student, Morgan dropped out of Free State two weeks shy of graduation. He had known Brittany would soon be born and thought it was important to get a job to pay bills.
"I felt it was my obligation," said Morgan, who has since had job opportunities slip through his fingers because he didn't have a high school diploma. "I regret doing it."
It's perhaps something of a miracle that Holmes finished the GED program. In 1991, she arrived from Vietnam knowing little English.
Holmes, 34, worked full-time to help put siblings through school. She dreamed of earning a GED and going to college. In 1994, she started the high-school equivalency program. The language barrier was a huge hurdle. Working a full-time job also created obstacles.
"Reading and writing were the hardest," she said. "It was like a puzzle."
Holmes said her next challenge is to earn a college degree in pharmacy.
"She should be an inspiration to any student who says it takes too much time," said Robert Eales, Lawrence's director of vocational and continuing education.
Moses never made it past his freshman year of public school in Lawrence.
"School was boring and I would always skip with friends," he said.
His parents agreed to let him drop out on the condition he earned a GED. His motivation to satisfy that pledge came a couple years later when he realized that working in a restaurant wasn't his lifelong calling.
"I did this to get a better job," Moses said. "I want to work with computers and own my own company."
Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman said he was proud of the commitment demonstrated by the GED recipients.
"Don't stop now," he said. "I hope you will continue your education in some form. Learning is a lifelong process."
-- Staff writer Tim Carpenter's can be reached at 832-7155.