An enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd of family members, friends and dignitaries was on hand Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at the YMCA Metro Office in downtown Pensacola as Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) hosted a celebration honoring its first graduates– Shaun Bowman and Christopher Brown.

Both Bowman and Brown completed their coursework for a high school diploma and credentialed career certificate in September of this year. Established in December of 2009, SHCOE is the world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district.

Bowman, 34, received his career certificate in Office Management and had previously attended Pace High School. Brown, 20, received his career certificate in Homeland Security and had previously attended Tate High School.

Dr. Howard Liebman, Co–Founder and Superintendent of SHCOE, praised Bowman and Brown for their initiative and dedication in pursuing their educational goals. Following his opening remarks, Dr. Liebman made the presentations of diplomas and career certificates to students.

“Our first graduates will always hold a special place of honor in our hearts,” Dr. Liebman said. “We started this innovative career online education company two years ago with only a vision– it’s amazing that two years later here we are with our first graduates. To be at this historic occasion is exciting and emotional. Smart Horizons Career Online Education is helping people change their lives.”

“I think what today represents is the fact that given a second chance, people can achieve their goals,” said Susan McLeod, Lead Academic Coach for SHCOE.

“You should never feel like you can’t overcome a mistake you might have made, or a choice you’ve made that didn’t lead you down the path you wanted,” said McLeod. “Today is about people who had an opportunity to get back on track. These students now have what they need and can look forward to very bright futures.”

It was a very special day, indeed, for Bowman and Brown.

“I enjoyed it all–the whole experience,” Bowman said. “Mrs. McLeod, my Academic Coach, has helped me a lot all the way through. It was a positive experience and everyone was very encouraging.”

“I knew I needed my diploma to take me far in life,” Brown said. “Mrs. McLeod helped me every step of the way. It’s an awesome program and I liked everything about it.”

A comment made by Brown at the end of the celebration summed up the significance of this first-ever SHCOE graduation celebration in a special way:

“Thanks, you all. You made my day; you made my life!”