Student speaker Octavia Lacks said she started at York Adams Academy as an alternative to dropping out.

"I never expected that I would truly enjoy the experience," Lacks told her classmates and friends and family at the York Adams Academy graduation Thursday night.

After experiencing years of mental and physical abuse, she was placed in the foster care system, Lacks said.

"York Adams Academy allowed me to work independently, and the staff was encouraging," said Lacks, who completed her needed credits earlier this year.

She has enrolled at HACC and is studying criminal justice. While working two jobs and going to school, Lacks was able to maintain a 3.3 GPA.

Her parting words to her fellow classmates, "Push yourselves a little further than you think you can go."

Linda Morningstar, who sits on the advisory board for the school for nontraditional students, opened the ceremony by applauding the accomplishments of the graduates.

"You are determined individuals who are willing to meet a challenge head on," said Morningstar. "Instead of giving up, you developed a Plan B. You have taken significant steps toward becoming productive members of society."

Superintendent of record Robert Krantz told the story of a man named Jerry, whom he used to work with.

When asked how he was, Jerry would reply, "If I was any better I'd be twins."

Jerry was always positive, and when asked why he would say, "Every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to it."

Krantz reminded the 93 graduates that it wouldn't always be easy but they could choose to be in a bad mood or to be in a good mood.

"Attitude is everything," said Krantz. "You are all winners."

Director David Detzel said, "You have impressed us by finishing this race. We can't wait to see what else you can do."

York Adams Academy Class of 2013

Number of graduates: 93

Graduation ceremony held: June 6 at the York Learning Center

Student speakers: Taylor Haga, Berrshod Hughes, Dylan Wingert, Octavia Lacks

Other speakers: Linda Morningstar, director David Detzel, Tracie Harvey, superintendent of record Robert Krantz