At age 32, Amanda Stanbery accomplished something she had wanted to do for 15 years – she earned her high school diploma.

Stanbery’s original plans to graduate from high school were thwarted when she was 17 years old. She married the summer before her senior year of high school, and when she returned to school that fall the principal told her it would be best to leave his school if she “had any plans of making a family” while she was still in high school.

“I walked out of his office and signed myself out. And just like that, I had quit,” Stanbery said. “In just a few minutes I shattered the dreams that for 17 years my grandparents and my uncle had for me.”

Stanbery, who was raised by her grandparents and uncle in a small East Texas town called Fruitvale, did give birth to a son a month before she would have graduated from high school. She later had two more sons with a husband who she says turned out to be abusive.

“I felt trapped living in a small town with few opportunities,” Stanbery said.

Her husband finally left her and Stanbery ended up marrying another man in 2007 who had three children of his own in 2007.

“At age 24, I was the mother of six children,” Stanbery said. That later became seven children when she and her new husband had a daughter.

When her daughter was 7, Stanbery and her family moved to Rockdale and she found herself trying to find meaning in her life. One day her stepdaughter encouraged her to get her GED. The next day, Stanbery found that Workforce Solutions offered GED classes in Rockdale in partnership with Temple College.

In May 2016, Stanbery passed her last GED test just a few days before her stepdaughter’s wedding.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Stanbery recalled. “I had accomplished something that had been plaguing me for years.”

After she earned her GED, Stanbery said a “whole lot of options” opened up for her. She enrolled in Temple College and took three classes her first semester, as well as a medical billing and coding class. This past spring she took four classes – a marketing class and three classes that counted toward an Administrative Assistant Certificate. She hopes to earn her associate degree in December 2018.

This June, Stanbery came back to share her story with the 2017 GED graduates.

“Your dreams are possible,” she told the graduates. “You can work around obstacles if you want to. You have to want it, you have to work hard, but the possibilities are endless.”