More than 80 students with the Conway Adult Education Center’s 2013 graduating class received diplomas Saturday night during commencement exercises at the James H. Clark Auditorium on the campus of Conway High School.

Over 200 students received their GED credentials in 2013. Forty of those scored at scholarship or honor graduate level with a GED composite score of 600 or higher.

Scholarships from the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and Pulaski Technical College were awarded to 12 honor graduates who participated in commencement exercises Saturday.

"We are so proud of our students.," said Ruth Ann Williams, director of CAEC. "They work extremely hard and really try to focus on their goal of getting a GED while working, taking care of children, going to class, no matter what the circumstances."

Students attend CAEC for many different reasons.

Elias Gonzalez, of El Salvador, had not been to school in ten years. He came to the United States in 2003 and immediately began working in construction.

More than anything, he wanted to learn English and get his GED so he could set an example for his children. Elias attended night classes for several months at the adult education center.

"The teachers and staff helped me learn everything I had forgotten," Gonzalez said. "They really encouraged and motivated me to go for my GED, and always made me believe I could do it."

Gonzalez celebrated his accomplishment Saturday night with his wife and children cheering him on.

Alivia Swaffar and Alexis Jackson were also among the graduating class of 2013. Both women were forced to quit high school due to health reasons.

"I’m expecting my first child," Swaffar said. "I want my child to know how important an education is in order to succeed in life, and I want my husband to be proud of me."

Swaffar said smaller classes at the center provided more individualized instruction and helped her learn at a faster pace.

Swaffer now plans on attending UACCM in January 2014, where she will major in nursing.

Alexis Jackson is a single mom, working to support her child. She is the first in her family to receive a GED.

"Everyone in my family is very educated, so I knew how important it was for me to get my GED credential," Jackson explained. "Adult Education was a perfect option for me, and I am so glad I made the decision to attend."

Jackson is working towards a CNA license and plans to work in that field as she attends college to pursue a career in criminal justice.

"It has been my dream to work in a field where I can help troubled teens," she said.

Friends and family of all the GED graduates were in attendance to show their support Saturday.

CAEC will begin Summer Session I at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 4.

For more information on the center’s programs and services, call 501-450-4810, or visit