Amanda Berry and Gina De Jesus, along with Michelle Knight, suffered unimaginable horrors during the years they were kept captive at Ariel Castro’s house before escaping on May 6, 2013.
And now that they’re free from their decade long ordeal, the two kidnapping victims are reclaiming parts of their lives back.
They’ve already taken one step forward when they received honorary high school diplomas from Cleveland’s John Marshall High School.
Berry was attending John Marshall when she was abducted by Castro on April 21, 2003, a day shy of her 17th birthday.
De Jesus was only 14 when she was kidnapped a year later, but she too would have attended John Marshall if she hadn’t crossed paths with Castro.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) May 28, 2015
Education was very important to Berry, who dreamt of being the first person in her family to attend university.
“After I graduate from college I am going to earn enough money to buy my own house,” Berry wrote in her journal on the day she was kidnapped.
But despite the horrible situation she found herself in, Berry made sure that Jocelyn, her daughter by Castro, also received an education.
The 29-year-old Berry created a makeshift classroom in the small bedroom she shared with her daughter and taught her as best as she could. She even made sure that her daughter had a small kindergarten graduation ceremony.
On Wednesday, it was Berry and the 25-year-old de Jesus’ turn to graduate, along with the rest of the John Marshall Class of 2015.
Marshall principal Tiffany James introduced them, telling the audience that “although their journey may have been interrupted, it’s never too late to finish the race.”
“I always planned to graduate, and my mom always wanted that for me, to see me cross the stage,” Berry said after the ceremony. “So this means everything to me.”
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) May 29, 2015
Now that she has her diploma, Berry is more determined to focus on her daughter while De Jesus plans to run her own business.