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Described as optimistic souls with a baby in one hand and textbooks in the other, 27 young mothers in the Provo School District celebrated their high school graduation Tuesday evening with family, friends and teachers.

Leilani Villaverde told her classmates how much she appreciated their friendship. "This school has become my family. They've taken care of me, they have been there for me. The teachers love you and take care of you."Emilee DuBreuil said fellow graduates were, "optimistic souls who didn't give up." The mother of three said: "Education is America's gift to all who live here. My education will help my children."

Graduate Karen Kelly thanked her classmates and encouraged them to look to the sky not to the ground. "Don't let people tell you what you can or can't do, just go ahead and do it."

"Young Mothers High School gave me more than a diploma," said Twila Steed, "it helped me gain self-respect." She added that the school was a blessing, "the staff just won't let you give up."

Saying Young Mothers High School is "the best program ever organized," graduate Shantel White said she has learned to care more and she treasures her special friends made while attending the school.

Lisa Drew dropped out of high school four years ago. "I thought I'd never go back. I found that I couldn't get a job that would support a child, without a diploma. So I came back to school. And I did it."

"You are on the threshold of new dreams. What you have learned will help you achieve those dreams," said Darlene Strong, parent of graduate Sherry Strong. "Remember, it's never too late. You have proved that you can do anything you set your mind to."

Another proud parent, Rose Marie Taylor, told graduates that they remind her of the little engine that could. "You said, `I think I can, I think I can.' Now you can say, `I know I can.' "

Also in the ceremony was a prayer by Kathy Swenson, vocal selections by Leilani and Lynn Villaverde and Jacinda Bourne. Kenneth W. Clark of the Provo School Board awarded the diplomas. Each graduate also received a bouquet of carnations.