Sitting in the library, I was attempting to accomplish something in one of my on-line classes, wondering what the point was when I heard her behind me.

"Amanda?" The sound of her saying my name made me cringe inside. I'm not sure if she was an intimidating woman or I was just easily intimidated. Probably both.

Turning around in my seat, I looked up at her. She didn't smile.

"I talked to Ms. ----- [my guidance counselor] and I've decided if you finish the class project and have it turned in by Friday, I'll pass you."

Relied, shock; I'm not sure what was registering on my face. "Do I come back to class?"

She shook her head. "No. Just finish the project." And then she turned to leave.

"Thank you." I don't know if she heard me, but I'd never meant those two words more than in that moment. And I had no idea if my guidance counselor had gotten down on her knees and begged on my behalf or if perhaps Mrs. Burten was more merciful than she seemed. Whatever had happened, I thanked the Lord that I still had a chance at that diploma.

And at the end of May in 2007, when my principle called my full name from a stage that nearly all of my 320 classmates had already crossed, it sounded like the entire stadium erupted. Shaking, I reached out for my diploma. My principle surrendered it with raised eyebrows at the volume of screams from the stands, "You're popular."

I smiled. To count the friends I'd managed to make in my graduating class, I only needed both hands. But I had a big family, a church family, and an even bigger Mexican family in the crowd. And one really loud boyfriend sitting directly in front of the stage. For all my social awkwardness, I was still loved. And those people out there screaming for me knew just what it had taken for me to get here.

The ceremony ended soon after that.

As my class proceeded out of the stadium, our teachers lined up in rows on either side of our procession line, smiling and congratulating students as they passed. I hadn't been there long enough to have a relationship with many of them, I'd done my best to keep my head down and just graduate. But as I passed Mrs. Burten, we made eye contact and she raised one eyebrow.

And then to my disbelief, she smiled.

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