Salutatorian Krista McKay had a message for her fellow graduates of Independence School: Life is unpredictable, don't hold grudges and don't dwell on your mistakes.
McKay's message was echoed by other speakers and class members throughout the graduation celebration.
Students of Independence School and more than 100 of their loved ones crammed into McNair High School's Performing Arts Theater on Thursday afternoon to take shelter from the storms and gray skies to cheer for the graduating class of 2010.
Members of the audience wiped tears from their eyes as they clutched balloons reading "You did it!" and "Congrats grad." The graduates dressed in royal blue gowns and women held red roses while men had them pinned to their chest.
Principal Carol Owens urged the students, who attended the school specializing in independent study, to not let the risk of failure prevent them from taking a chance. Owens read a quote from basketball legend Michael Jordan that talked about his failures and successes.
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games," she read. "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Valedictorian Erica Dickerson shared with the audience how she could've been a high school dropout if it weren't for Independence School and it helped her rise to her potential.
"We can't make excuses," she said. "We've been given a great opportunity."
Brandon Garcia was honored for his excellence in mathematics at the graduation. He plans to attend Delta College and is interested in either becoming a veterinary technician or studying photography. The graduation brought a sense of both relief and accomplishment, he said.
"It was hard, but I enjoyed working at my own pace," he said. "It helps a lot to know I can manage myself on my own, and I know what I learned here will prepare me for the future."