GRANITEVILLE — When Hailee Baughman heard her name called Wednesday, May 23, at the Aiken County Adult Education commencement ceremony, it was probably music to her ears.

Baughman, from Aiken, needed only one credit to earn her high school diploma – music appreciation. Through the adult education program, she completed the course in less than a month.

“I'm so glad for this program because I would have been a high school dropout by just one credit without it,” she said. “They made it so easy.”

Baughman was a student at Midland Valley High School when she learned she was pregnant.

The Aiken County Public School District's Adult Education program not only allowed Baughman to finish school but also work to provide for her son.

“I had all this time to work and save up so I could have money for my son without having to worry,” Baughman said. “Now that's he's here, I have my schooling behind me.”

But only high school.

Baughman, who had the highest grade-point average in the diploma class, received a scholarship for her good grades to USC Aiken and will enroll in the fall to study nursing.

“All I have to do is start classes,” she said.

Baughman was one of more than 125 students who received their high school diplomas; General Equivalency Diplomas, or GEDS; English as a second language completer; and recognition of U.S. citizenship during the commencement ceremony.

Like Baughman, Elizabeth Johnson of North Augusta dropped out of school at 16 to take care of her son.

Now the mother of a blended family of seven, Johnson felt the time was right to finish what she had started.

“No matter how old you get, no matter how hard life can get, it's important to complete your goals,” she said, adding the program took only a few months.

Johnson said family and friends helped her juggle her home life and school.

“They were very supportive and understanding of me needing to do this for myself,” she said.

Johnson might need that support for a few more years. She's enrolled at Aiken Technical College and plans to enter the radiology tech program next fall.

Pat Keating, the director of Adult Education, said the program is tailored for students like Baughman and Johnson to succeed.

“We all do things in our own time, and sometimes the traditional doesn't work for everyone,” he said. “These are huge achievements that will take our students to the next step. Ultimately, we want them to be lifelong learners, and we want them to have life-sustaining careers where they can thrive, be successful and advance.”

The Adult Education's summer school program begins June 4 the Byrd Learning Center in Graniteville. For more information, visit acpsd.net/AdultEducation, or call 803-663-4920.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.