LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The best education program in the Lonestar State is right here in East Texas.
Stubblefield Learning Center was awarded the title by the Texas Chamber of Commerce executives at their annual conference.
16-year-old Megan Lopez comes to Stubblefield Learning Center to earn her high school diploma.
"I ended up getting pregnant and so this was a good place for me to go because it's only four hours a day so I could be home with my baby more," said Lopez.
Dakota Hebert came here to graduate, something he may have never achieved at Diboll High School.
"I was really just going to drop out and get my GED and then this came up," said Hebert.
For 15 years, schools from around Angelina County have partnered with Stubblefield so at-risk students have the chance to graduate.
"I started the school when we didn't have a dollar, we got someone to pay our rent, we got the districts to pay the salaries of the teachers," said Sallye Darmstadter, Director.
Since then, the center has helped more than a thousand students earn diplomas from their district.
Now they've been awarded the best education program in the state.
"I think it really hits you more at the graduations when you're watching the students cross the stage and get their diploma, knowing that possibility was not there at one time and now it happens," said Jasper Lee, social studies department.
One of those success stories came back to visit.
Chris Plopper was kicked out of Hudson, but earned his diploma, then joined the army and served a year in Afghanistan.
"I was probably the most stubborn one out of everybody and I succeeded, so just keep on," said Plopper.
"It's awesome to have them come back and just to know they're successful, they've made it, I get very teary eyed," said Darmstadter. "There are a lot of days that I sit at this desk and I hear their stories and I am amazed that they could have the courage to even want to go out and work hard to earn a high school diploma."
But, in these classrooms, dreams of college, careers, and a better life survive.