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For the first time, everyone had a lot of breathing room at the GED graduation for 21 students of the College of Central Florida's Levy Center, and they took full advantage of it.
As 20 of the 21 prospective graduates started the walk to "Pomp and Circumstance" down the center aisle at the Usher Community Center in Chiefland, past almost 200 friends, relatives and college staff, the whoops went up from the crowd.
"Hey girl," one proud mom called as her adult daughter walked by and took a seat at the front of the room by the stage.
"That's my baby," said another.
Garret Combass, 12, held peach-color roses to give his sister, Shelby Rhymes.
"Yeah baby," Professor Dennis Radice said from onstage.
CF Levy Center Provost Marilyn Ladner thanked the Chiefland City Commission for making the facility available to the school for free.
Joan Luebbe, Adult Education Coordinator, said the conference room at the Levy Center was just fine for all the years it saw graduates off to college, careers and futures, but ... "It was pretty crowded and difficult to get a photo op."
At the Tommy Usher Community Center, the school was able to set up a banner in a special place for graduates to take photos after the commencement ceremony.
"We are here to celebrate your success and we know it was difficult to walk in the door the first time," Luebbe said.
Luebbe introduced the speaker, Dr. Barbara Burrows, special assistant to the president of CF, noting that Burrow's mother earned her own high school equivalency diploma at the age of 54.
"It's tradition that commencement means 'the beginning' and this degree is going to open doors for you," Burrows told the graduates.
She recounted a conversation asking her mother what the best year of her life was. Burrows said she thought maybe it would be the day she was born or when she graduated from college.
"She said 14. Here's a woman who's 89 years old," Burrows said. "That was the last year of her being a normal school girl."
Burrows said her grandfather was a bank president who within a year would see the Great Depression start. Her mother contracted polio.
"She was never a carefree girl after that year," Burrows said. "And I knew why she was so insistent that we would go to college.
This was probably hard to get," Burrows said referring to the diplomas. "But it gets easier."