As a teenager in state custody, Ashley Dubree had been moved around from group home to group home.
By the time she moved into her own apartment at age 18, Dubree was only considered a high school sophomore.
She was working two jobs, which kept her from completing her GED until she started working with the Lawrence Adult Learning Center earlier this year.
“I didn’t know I was ready for it, and then I finally gave myself the chance to really sit down and do it every day, and I graduated,” said Dubree, 22, who accepted her diploma with about 30 other Lawrence GED graduates Thursday night at Free State High School in a Lawrence school district ceremony.
Dubree, who works as a dispatcher for Blue Sky Satellite, spent mornings for about four weeks working with tutors and taking practice tests. She completed the exam in May.
The school district honored about 80 GED graduates for the 2009-2010 school year.
Scott Morgan, school board president, said the graduates can celebrate their achievements.
“You have shown something that is lacking in many, and it is something you have, which is drive,” he said.
Amy Phommasane, 30, said all of the graduates worked through adversity. Six years ago, she came to Lawrence from Laos with her husband, Justin Phommasane. She didn’t speak any English and started taking English as a second language classes at the East Heights Early Childhood Family Center.
Phommasane balanced learning a new language with raising her young son, working a full-time job at Kinedyne Corp., becoming a U.S. citizen and working toward her GED. She finished her GED in April and said she planned to attend Johnson County Community College to become a nurse.
“It just opened a new window for me to go anywhere I want,” Phommasane said. “I can be a nurse. That’s my dream.”
Dubree also plans to attend JCCC, to become a dental hygienist. She said each of the graduates could offer a similar lesson.
“Just don’t give up,” Dubree said. “Some people just aren’t ready at first, and they have to keep going. Just do it until you get it.”