While her infant daughter, Sky, slept peacefully, Brittany McNear celebrated an important milestone in her life. The 17-year-old Aiken resident was among the honorees during a recognition event for GED earners at Crossroads Church on York Street on Sunday afternoon.

ďI want to be able to provide for my daughter, and Iím excited because I feel like Iíve accomplished something,Ē McNear said. ďFor a long time, I was getting in and out of stuff that I had no business getting in and out of. Now, I feel like Iím on the right track, so Iím happy.Ē

McNear is one of the most recent success stories for the GED preparation program offered at Christ Centralís North Campus, which is located at Crossroads. Earlier this month, she gave birth to Sky.

ďSky is only 16 days old,Ē McNear said. ďMy due date actually wasnít until August 20, but I went into preterm labor. She has a problem with her left lung, so she was in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for a while. I didnít think she would be home in time to come with me today. But she came home about three days ago, and here she is.Ē

McNear, who is interested in nuclear science, will start attending Aiken Technical College in August. Eventually, she wants to join the Army.

ďI like to say, ĎThe skyís the limit,í and thatís why I named my daughter Sky,Ē McNear said.

Thirteen other people have earned their GEDs so far this year after participating in Christ Centralís North Campus program. They had to take a revamped exam that is supposed to be more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed for colleges and todayís workplaces.

ďWeíre proud of this group in particular for going ahead and getting their GEDs even though it (the test) is reputed to be harder,Ē said Ellen Grooms, who is the director of Christ Centralís North Campus GED preparation program.

Now that heís got his GED, Joshua Starke, 18, would like to get a job at Bridgestone. The Aiken resident also is considering attending Aiken Technical College to study criminal justice.

Fellow GED earner Tymothie Wyatt, 18, of Jackson, wants to go to college and study graphic design.

ďI was out of school, and then I found out about this program,Ē he said. ďI figured that I needed get my GED if I ever wanted to do anything in life.Ē

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.