Graduates of Glendale Unified's alternative education programs — Daily High School, Verdugo Academy and AdvancePath Academy — came from different places and for different reasons.
And they all celebrated commencement Friday with variations of the same theme.
"I learned so much, and my personality changed," said Artur Avetisyan, an AdvancePath graduate.
"At Hoover [High School] I was a gangster-wannabe, and now I'm just a regular guy, trying to go to college and make some money for the future."
Daily High graduate Daniel Huerres said it was the best day of his life.
"Daily is where amazing happens," he said. "They gave me a second chance."
Daily High and AdvancePath rely on small, structured classes where students can recover lost credit, but Verdugo Academy is an independent study where students meet with teachers at least one day a week.
The structure of Verdugo Academy allowed Sarah Safuto to finish high school in three years.
"It gave me the freedom to do that; it was my goal," the 16-year-old said.
"I wanted to do what most people don't do."
From age 6, Sarah said she wanted to teach herself.
"Ten years later, I'm now graduating because I taught myself," she said.
"The 6-year-old in me is very satisfied."
For Meghan Doyle, her two years at Daily High transformed her attitude, she said.
She left Crescenta Valley High School after two years of not coming to class or doing schoolwork, she said.
"I came here and made all my lifelong friends," she said.
"The secret is the teachers. They push you, they don't let you fail, even if I wanted to."
That may be why the Class of 2010 is best remembered as one of the largest in recent years, and one of the most resilient, Principal Cuauhtemoc Avila said.
"They saw the benefit of completing their education," he said.
"This group dug deep and they found that attitude and fortitude . . . and that says a lot about their character."
And the graduating class was one of the strongest academically, with all but one graduate going to college, said Ingrid Guerra, a Verdugo Academy teacher.
"Most of them were straight-A students," she said. "Some are already attending college."
Justin Campbell, a Daily graduate, wants to go to college, but said he wasn't sure what he'd choose for a major.
His mother and grandparents said he'd have a great future no matter what he chooses, and that's due in no small part to his Daily High School experience, his mother Dana Harrison said.
"Daily offered him an environment that made him feel successful," Harrison said.
"He had a tough road, and he never gave up."