HELENA — On Friday, Project for Alternative Learning students walked across the stage at Helena Middle School to receive their diplomas and graduate from the Helena Public Schools' system.
The auditorium at HMS was filled with laughter, applause, and a few happy tears as students, families, and friends got the chance to celebrate the occasion.
Ahead of the graduation ceremony, two PAL students were candid about their experiences in traditional school atmospheres and thankful for the opportunity the PAL program gave them.
"Kind of nervous, but I'm very excited. It's been a long time coming. I had a lot of struggles in like middle school and when I went to public high school. So it's just it's great to be here," said Ashton Thompson. "At [Helena] Capital, I was like really kind of like timid and shy and I like, never did my work and when I went to PAL, that changed almost instantly."
"It's scary and really exciting at the same time. It's just really surreal," said Kaiden Watts. "When I got into high school, I — it was really hard for me at Capital and PAL really saved me. You know, I had no chance of graduating in the middle of my junior year and now I'm here and so it's just hitting me all at once. It's crazy.
PAL graduated 23 students on Friday afternoon.