Student after student stepped to the microphone at River's Edge High School's graduation to thank faculty for sticking by their sides and making them believe in second chances.
The theme of the five valedictorians' speeches at the Richland alternative school graduation was overcoming obstacles, in school and life.
More than 200 people filled the Three Rivers Convention Center on Friday morning to watch 28 of its 48 seniors receive their diplomas. Not everyone could attend the ceremony.
"I'm no longer a negative kid with no future ahead of me," said co-valedictorian Alec Richardson. "I became a man. A man that is filled with nothing but confidence, positivity and integrity."
With digital images of American flags waving as a backdrop, Principal Dan Chubb spoke with pride about the Class of 2014 and the hard work it took to get to graduation.
"Look up, get up and never give up," he said, quoting from former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin's Hall of Fame speech.
Three other valedictorians — Ricky Mohl, Shaleh Lutz and Audrey Turnipseed — read short speeches. The fifth, Dominique Amador, could not make the ceremony and a faculty member read her speech.
"High school wasn't the easiest for most of us up on this stage. We had lots of bumps in the road trying to get to this moment," Turnipseed said. "Looking back at it, those struggles that we had only made us stronger people and harder workers."
Mohl received the Paul Beardsley Memorial Scholarship, Turnipseed received numerous scholarships and Lutz was named the Student of the Year.