Lawrence High School grads ‘ready to end this chapter and start another’

They finished their classes, celebrated with families and just plain got through it all.

In the end, more than 300 seniors at Lawrence High School soaked up the sun, held onto their mortarboards and picked up their diplomas Sunday afternoon at the Lions’ football stadium, completing a three-year journey on campus that for many began four years ago in junior high school.

For some — such as Miquel Brown, who managed to squeeze two years of high school into his final two semesters to graduate with the class of 2011 — the day almost never arrived.

“I can do everything I want to do,” said Brown, who left gangs and crime in the Kansas City-metro area to find peace, Van Go Mobile Arts and the Lawrence Diploma Completion Program in town. “It’s an opportunity to do everything with my future life that I thought I’d never have the chance to do. I thought I’d be dead or in jail.”

Now he’s working to become a certified nurse’s aide.

“It’s like changing fate,” he said.

Chenelle Steele celebrated Sunday with her family, especially her 8-month-old daughter, Alycia. An emergency C-section kept her out of school for weeks beginning in September, but she came back and finished — passing both creative writing and government to earn her diploma.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Steele, who plans to take a year off from school before pursuing a nursing program through Johnson County Community College or Kansas University. “It’s just great to be finished — and I did it all with a baby! I’m so proud!”

Sarah Stuever graduated with a National Honor Society stole around her neck, indicating her ongoing leadership, GPA of at least 3.5 and at least 40 hours of community service this past year. Her gold cord also showed that she finished in the top 10 percent of her class academically.

Not that it was easy.

“It’s kind of hard to not want to stop studying — just staying interested till the very end,” said Stuever, who plans to study psychology at KU. “I’m ready to end this chapter and start another one.”