Lindsey Waters got a great 18th birthday present -- her GED diploma.
It actually came a day early, during the Wayne Community College Adult High School and High School Equivalency commencement exercise on Friday morning.
"His mom (Heather Stewart) talked me into it," she said of the program, gesturing to her boyfriend, Tyler Beaman, standing nearby. "Me and him are graduating together. I talked him into walking across the stage."
Beaman, 20, didn't seem to mind.
"It's awesome," he said. "I'm glad I chose to start college as soon as I graduated. It's an accomplishment."
His diploma was from the Adult High School program.
The couple has already started on the next step in their education, taking college classes at WCC. Miss Waters' is pursuing early childhood education and Beaman is enrolled in the automotive program.
Lucille Glover of Goldsboro showed up to celebrate her daughter, Gabrielle Glover's big day, receiving her AHS diploma.
"She went for three years," Lucille said. "I'm excited. I'm just overwhelmed with it because she has such a hard time with health issues.
"But the whole time she's been I don't think she's missed maybe one day or two at the most."
Her 20-year-old daughter has already started taking college classes, in early childhood education, Lucille said.
"These people at WCC, they're there to help you and they're good," she said. "So she's going to be going here for maybe a couple more years."
Other family were on hand to celebrate the occasion, including Lucille's sister, Sylvia Rouse, who recently moved to Goldsboro.
"I'm definitely proud," Ms. Rouse said. "She's worked very hard to get here."
The Basic Skills commencement exercise recognized 35 Adult High School and 130 High School Equivalency students.
Renita Dawson, associate vice president of continuing education services, introduced two "remarkable" graduates chosen to speak to their classmates. Each had overcome trials, she said, but more importantly, had successes to share.
Yolanda Ambrosio Barrientos had been unable to earn a high school diploma in her country. Arriving in the U.S., she set out to complete her high school education.
Despite a language barrier, the tipping point for her was the Wake Technical High School Equivalency Program, Ms. Dawson said. WCC partnered with Wake Tech to bring the program to Wayne County.
"HEP provides migrant and seasonal farm workers and immediate family with the necessary training to obtain the high school equivalancy diploma," she said. "As a result of this collaboration, which started in 2012, 150 students have completed their high school education."
On Friday morning, Yolanda, along with 32 other students in HEP, received diplomas.
It had been difficult finding a job and feeding her two children but she never gave up.
"In the back of my mind, I always had hope to, one day, go back to school and earn my high school diploma," she said.
She intends to continue her education, recently completing an eight-week computer class, with plans to start college classes in the fall.
Tyronika Kinsey, 18, grew up in Dudley, attending Brogden Primary and Middle schools, deciding to finish high school at WCC.
She recalled her mother's words -- "High school years are the best years but they go by so fast" -- and said she now agrees with them.
"I would like to be a dental hygienist," she said. "I also would enjoy being a pastry chef. I know that these are two very different careers but I could enjoy either one."
Her advice to fellow graduates is her life motto, she said.
"No matter how many obstacles are thrown at you on your journey through life, never give up," she said. "Keep your head up, stay strong-minded and focused and you shall succeed in life."