Arlington, VA

“Our journey has not been easy, but somehow we’ve overcome the obstacles in our way.”

Newly-minted high school graduate Rachel Wilburn was a two-time high school dropout with a kid and another on the way when she entered the Langston High School Continuation Program. This morning, she was given the honor of addressing about 150 fellow Langston and Arlington Mill high school continuation graduates at the Washington-Lee auditorium.

“Despite everything that has come our way, there is a voice in our unconscious minds that said ‘I will not give up on myself,’” she said. “I thank God for giving us the strength to make it through this.”

Wilburn credited her parents, her husband and her parents-in-law with helping her to find Langston and make it through the teen parenting program. With their support, she even achieved perfect attendance in her third trimester.

Wilburn said she now plans to attend college to study business and human resource, so that she can give her kids “the best possible future.”

“I’m a wife and a mother of two amazing children who I can’t see my life without,” she said. “This program is such a blessing.”

For Arlington Mill graduate Joel Diaz, who turned 21 today, going back to high school in his 20s was “embarrassing.” But, he said, he was able to overcome that initial trepidation and thrive.

“After I began going to Arlington Mill… I realized that a lot of us, we’re just different. We all have different stories, we’re all on different paths, we all have different goals,” he said. “Going through this has made me a stronger person. Our paths do not have to define our future.”

“I have been waiting for this day so long,” Diaz continued. “I hope you realize that this is not the end but the beginning.”

More photos, after the jump.

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