After many of them fought through life’s struggles, endeavors and obstacles, many students of Take Two Academy found their way to the end of the yellow brick road on Thursday.
Take Two Academy celebrated the accomplishments of its biggest graduating class in its history with a celebration themed around the classic novel and film “The Wizard of Oz.” The students, wearing bold scarlet gowns and hats, emerged from a room in the Ardmore High School gymnasium and were greeted with a standing ovation and cheers from friends, family and peers waiting for them in the stands.
Waiting for the graduates were a line of chairs, a green curtain backdrop with the words “The Emerald City” written on a sign and a literal yellow brick road leading the way to their seats.
Lori Bell, director of Take Two Academy, stood before the graduates and began referencing themes from “The Wizard of Oz.”
“You are capable of more than you know,” Bell told the graduates.
Bell explained that the path the students have come down didn’t come without a lot of hard work and dedication. As the students have taken the path toward success at Take Two they have overcome obstacles, built character and faced adversity.
Like the characters in the famous tale, the students have learned things they didn’t know about themselves while going down the path. Reaching a milestone like graduating takes wisdom, heart and courage. Like the Scarecrow, Lion, Tinman and Dorothy heading toward the Emerald City to see Oz, the students have bonded together to reach their goal.
“Believe in yourself just as we believe in you today,” Bell said. “Life is going to be hard, but don’t give up.”
Following Bell’s opening, two Take Two students shared their story and experience, explaining how they found themselves in the school. Justin Kerby explained that he fell behind in school and was in a situation where he wouldn’t walk across the stage without a lot of help and work. While he was hesitant to join Take Two initially, Kerby said he was proud to be looking at his fellow classmates  preparing to receive a diploma.
Maisie Brown shared her emotional story of joining Take Two. She recalled the moment she found out she was pregnant with her son on Nov. 3, 2014. She explained how she decided to work at Wal-Mart and get her GED, though that plan quickly began to slip away. After her educational goals seemed to be fading, Brown decided to take a courageous step.
“I didn’t want my son to grow up and see that his mother dropped out of high school and did not become something great like she knew she could be,” Brown said through tears. “Fast forward to the now, I am standing in front of all of you today to walk across the stage to receive my high school diploma.
“I would not be standing here today if I did not have all of you.”
As the students began to line up to receive their diplomas “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” began playing over the speakers as one by one they crossed the stage. While receiving their diplomas, the students were introduced and their future goals and plans were read to the audience.
Kerby wants to be an air traffic controller. Brown will be attending Murray State College before continuing into a dental hygiene program. Many students expressed plans to attend college, a goal that seemed unreachable for some at points in their journey.
“Earning a high school diploma is a once in a lifetime event,” Bell said.
In closing, Bell told the students that throughout life there will always be supporters, family and friends there for them and while life will always have its challenges, Bell reminded the students of one thing.
They can always close their eyes, take a deep breath and remember that there is no place like home.
“You’ll always have a place at Take Two,” she said. “You will always be welcome to come home.”