Jacob Hughes had his pick of college athletics scholarships in football and track -- Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Florida State, Georgia Southern and others.
But Hughes, 19, was unable to take advantage of the offers because he didnt have a high school diploma after missing a grade in one class.
On Sunday, Hughes was one of 38 students who received their high school diplomas from E.L. High School Home Study Academy, which was founded by Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas last year. The students took part in a graduation march Sunday evening at New Fellowship Baptist Church.
What brought me here was I missed one class, Hughes said. I was falling behind.
By earning his diploma, Hughes said hell have another opportunity at those scholarship offers.
It means a lot, he said. Everybody deserves a second chance.
Tomika Plant, a 34-year-old bus driver from Fort Valley, didnt graduate when she was 18 because her mother died at that time, wanted to set an example for her own children, ages 11 and 9.
I wanted to complete my high school degree, said Plant, who also was the class president. I have kids, and I wanted to show them its never too late to go back.
Sundays class represented the second graduating class for the academy, going from 20 in January to 38 in June. Lucas said 40 more will earn their diplomas in August.
We were hoping that itd grow, said Lucas, a retired educator. There are (almost) 50,000 folks (in Middle Georgia) with no high school diploma. We want the opportunity afforded to a large number of people. Its a life-changing experience.
Lucas said the academy is fully accredited by the state, so the diploma can be used for a student to apply for any school of higher learning.
Her students range anywhere from teenagers who are unable to complete their coursework for a high school diploma to people in their 30s and 40s coming back for a second chance at a diploma.
Lucas said the classes are mostly tutoring, and that students must meet a certain criteria set by the state in order to graduate.
Often, she said, a large part of her students are those who completed their high school coursework but didnt pass the states graduation test. Others are there for preparation work for the SAT.
It depends on the student and how many courses they have left, Lucas said.
Margaret Howard was one of those who filled the church pews to watch her daughter, Selena, graduate. Her daughter, 26, missed graduating from Westside High School by one point, Margaret Howard said.
Its a great day, she said. Shes going to try to be a nurse.
For more information about the program, visit www.elucasconsulting.com/homestudy.html.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.