They were the kids who many including some of the students themselves assumed would never graduate high school. But on May 16, that's exactly what they did.

An audience of more than 1,000 family and friends watched 111 graduates of Hesperia Unified's continuation high school and alternative education programs, Canyon Ridge and Shadow Ridge, walk across the stage at Oak Hills High School.

"Canyon Ridge and Shadow Ridge are schools of second chances and every one of these students has a story," Principal Mary Porras told the audience. "Some have children of their own to care for at home. Some have to work to support their families. Some have issues we can scarcely imagine. ... A light went on for each of them, and they decided it was time to get it done."

"When I was in 11th grade, I gave up on school completely," Kaytee Owen said.

A Canyon Ridge teacher told her she could graduate, if she chose to. Now Owen plans to pursue a degree in social work.

"I am now looking forward to my future," she said.

"When you finally get it done, it's the greatest feeling you could ever have," Canyon Ridge's Kyle Martorana said. "Now I can finally say, 'My name is Kyle Martorana, and I am a high school graduate in the class of 2012.'"

Graduates rang a special bell after receiving their diplomas, a ritual for both schools.

"You have to know how proud we are of you," Porras told the graduates.