BROOKSVILLE — Chelsey Morales is a young mother with a lot of blessings.
She and husband, Angel Morales, are thrilled with the recent addition of baby Adelisse to their family, joining sister Emily, 4, and 16-month-old brother Angel, known as A.J.
Tonight, there will be even more good news as Morales, 26, receives her high school diploma at the Hernando County School District Adult Education Center's graduation exercises.
The road to her diploma has not been easy.
When she was 17 and living in New York, she had a 3.75 grade point average and the offer of a New York University teaching scholarship. Then she was told she lacked a physical education class credit and could not graduate.
Frustrated, she left home and moved in with her boyfriend, Angel. They eventually married and children started to come, putting finishing high school on the back burner.
But Morales always intended to take those final steps toward a diploma.
When her parents, Adelaida and Jose Santos, moved to Florida, Morales did not want to be far from them, so the young family moved here in June 2008.
Things were tough. They were unable to keep their apartment as their savings gave out and they moved in with her parents.
In December, things began to change for the better. Morales said she decided it was time to go to church and chose Grace World Outreach. That, she said, was when things started turning around "completely."
Angel Morales found a job and the family found a home of their own.
Chelsey decided to take the General Educational Development test (GED). She took the required pretest, which determined she was ready to take the GED test.
The next available testing date was March 16, but she was due to deliver Adelisse on March 15. (The baby actually arrived March 16.)
Morales hoped that someone would drop out of the Feb. 24 testing date, which would open up a slot for her. She called and called, trying not to be annoying, but feeling really anxious. She praised the program's employees for their patience. "The entire staff were all so sweet," she said.
On the morning of the 24th, she got the call she had been waiting: A spot had opened up. "I was very excited," she said.
Morales passed the test and, tonight, she will receive her reward for perseverance.
Morales said she wants to do something with her life. And while she has not yet identified what it will be, it motivated her. Another motivation was her children.
"I wanted to show my children that it's never too late to attain a goal that they have and that through God, everything is possible," she said.
"I feel such an incredible sense of accomplishment now that I did it," she said. "And I give thanks to the Lord for guiding me."
Morales also appreciates all her parents did to help her. "Because of my financial situation, I was almost unable to take the GED examination," she said.
"My parents knew how important it was to me to be able to complete it, so my mom and dad actually paid for my testing and my biological father, William Rodriguez, paid for my graduation fees so that I would be able to have the satisfaction of marching at graduation.
"All three of my parents, along with my husband, Angel, have been very supportive of me and they all gave me the confidence I needed to successfully complete the exams," she said.
"Most people might not think that getting a GED is a big deal, but to me, it's everything. I'm very proud of myself," she said.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.