Cordasia McGee stood with her classmates wearing a royal blue gown and a graduation cap with rhinestones and the words, "I made it," decorating the top.
A John Tyler High School graduate, she was among a small group of students who could not graduate with their class in June because they lacked a course credit or a passing standardized test score.
It was the math TAKS test that kept Cordasia from the earlier graduation, but she passed it this summer. And on Friday, she was ready to walk.
"I'm feeling good," said the 18-year-old who plans to attend Tyler Junior College and study dental hygiene.
Cordasia was among 15 Tyler ISD summer graduates who walked across the stage Friday in a ceremony that, while a few months later than their classmates, was no less enthusiastic or meaningful.
"It is an honor and a privilege to be here this evening to celebrate with these students and honor the accomplishment they have achieved," Joe Coburn, TISD's executive director for secondary education, said during the ceremony at The University of Texas at Tyler Ornelas Activity Center.
School district and campus officials attended the event along with family members and friends.
The Rev. Orenthia Mason, TISD board president, said the event provided a great time to celebrate students completing one part of their life and starting another.
The Rev. Mason, in her trademark style, delivered several inspirational stories highlighting the power of the mind and attitude in reaching goals.
"Because you didn't allow anyone to close the door of your mind and the door of success that God has implanted in you, you are now about to graduate from high school," she said with passion in her voice.
She reminded the students to thank their parents and never forget what they have done for them.
"Don't forget your mother and daddy," she said. "They are the best parents they knew how to be."
Finally, she told a story about frogs in a race and how five frogs started the race, but only one continued to the end.
As that one kept going, those in the crowd shouted discouraging comments, but the frog pressed on and finished. The frog's secret was that he was deaf. So he couldn't hear the words of the crowd.
"You need to learn to be deaf to what folks say about you," the Rev. Mason said. "Don't let them write your history. You write your history by the choices that you make."
After the ceremony was over, the graduates gathered in the building's foyer to take pictures and talk with family and friends.
"It's a blessing," Elizabeth Moore Hawkins, 37, of Tyler, said as she took photos of her daughter Cordasia.
Robert E. Lee High School graduate Kry-Shaunna Masters, 18, said she was shocked when she found out that she wouldn't graduate with her class but was determined to finish, something that made her family proud.
"The fact that she just did not give up, to me I feel like it is a milestone," her mother Angela Crater, 38, of Tyler said.
Haide Gregorio, 19, a John Tyler graduate, posed for photos with her parents and four siblings.
"I feel great," she said of the accomplishment. The English TAKS test had proved challenging for Haide, but she said her parents encouraged her telling her that she just needed to study more.
Coburn credited the school counselors with ensuring the students stayed on track to reach the goal. He said it's fun to watch them graduate and more significant for them because it took a long road to get there.
"We're proud of them," he said.