Dominique Ragston’s education took an unexpected detour when she learned at the end of the ninth grade that she was pregnant.
“Now that I was bringing another life into the world, I knew I had to push harder in life, not only for me but for my daughter,” Ragston said. “That’s when it really dawned on me that this little bundle of joy is counting on me.”
Her daughter, Amiyah, was born in 2010, and she was there on Tuesday to see her mom receive her high school diploma. As the 2013 salutatorian of the Ombudsman Camden County School, Ragston admitted during her graduation speech there were times that she wanted to give up and drop out of school.
“While carrying my daughter, I knew being in school full time, working and being a parent wasn’t going to be easy,” Ragston said. “Thanks to great family and friends, I learned (to) have faith, keep focused and — no matter what life throws at you — never give up.”
She also credited her mom, Emily, who she said is the “one person that’s been there for me, regardless of my choices, who supported me through the hard times, the long nights and the tears, the frustration, always encouraging and believing that I could do it.”
Dozens of family members gathered in the high school auditorium on Tuesday to cheer for Ragston and the 10 other Ombudsman students who earned their diplomas on Tuesday. Ragston was joined by fellow graduates William Cooper, Ashia Davis, Spencer Harris, Rae’an Lynn, Christopher Mason, Tyler Pagliocchini, Coleman Rabon, Philicia Randolph, Robin Vance and Lorenzo Vega in receiving their diplomas at the ceremony.
The school, established locally in 2008 by the Camden County school system, offers an alternate path to graduation for students who are unable to perform well in a traditional classroom because of medical, social or family circumstances. It allows them to get the credits they need to graduate.
Randolph, class valedictorian, said it was sometimes a long and difﬁcult road to graduation, and she thanked the Ombudsman teaching staff for driving the students forward and helping them reach their goals.
Betty Fullilove, a teacher at the school, said students value the ﬂexibility of the school since most of them are there because of their circumstances. They have to be committed, but they get a lot of one-on-one encouragement from the staff.
“I think we would have lost a lot of talented, gifted students if not for this school and I think the board of education recognized they needed to do something to help these students,” Fullilove said.
On hand to congratulate the graduates on their achievement were Dr. Will Hardin, superintendent of Camden County Schools; Dr. John Tucker, principal of Camden County High School; St. Marys Mayor Bill DeLoughy, Kingsland Mayor Kenneth Smith, Woodbine Mayor Steve Parrott and Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor.