Published: May 20, 2012 3:24 AM EDT
Updated: May 22, 2012 3:32 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla- A Southwest Florida mother and son mark a milestone by graduating high school together. The duo got their diplomas during Saturday's Adult & Career Education commencement at the Harborside Event Center.

Catherine Rice's education stopped when she was in the fourth grade.

"When I was 11 years old, they decided to pull me out of school because we were too poor," she said Saturday.

Born in an impoverished town in Guyana, she was forced to work on the family's farm.

"I had a dream in my heart that someday I'd go back to school, I had that hope," she said.

Thirty-five years later, Catherine's dream finally came true. She's now married, and living in Lehigh Acres. After learning about Lee County's Adult & Career Education program, she jumped at the opportunity and inspired her son along the way.

Chris Rice dropped out of high school as a freshman, after struggling in school. He joined the GED program alongside his mother.

"She was actually doing it, succeeding at it. She's brilliant, just massively brilliant. I realized, I needed to do it," Chris Rice said Saturday.

But her success didn't come easily. Catherine took years to complete her full course load.

"I could remember one time taking my book and saying, 'God, I don't know if I can do this. But I still have a dream and I don't want to give up on it," Catherine Rice said.

Despite the challenges, the mother and son finally achieved their dream...walking the stage together. Catherine credits courage and focus for finally landing her that coveted diploma.

"Don't be afraid. And even if you are afraid, take that first step," she smiled.

Catherine is already pursuing her college education at Edison State College. She hopes to become a social worker upon graduation. Her son, Chris, also plans to enroll at Edison State College soon.

Photos courtesy of News-Press.