JOPLIN, Mo. — There was plenty of pomp and circumstance this morning in Joplin, all for a special commencement ceremony.

10 youngsters make up the very first graduating class of Freeman Health System’s learning center. All will start kindergarten when school begins next month.

This morning’s ceremony saw each graduate receive a diploma from Freeman President and CEO Paula Baker.

“All of our children, their parents are employees of Freeman Health System, so it was so much fun to see the proud looks on the faces of parents and grandparents and just the sense of accomplishment that you could see in the children. They were pretty excited to receive that diploma this morning,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President & CEO.

“We’re excited. It’s been kind of a long process, you know, we had to deal with Covid when we first opened but we’re really excited for these kids and their next step in their future,” said Josh Sharp, Learning Ctr. Dir.

“I think it’s very exciting to know and to see the success of the center overall and just how much it has continued to grow and how the students overall have continued to grow,” said Jessica Liberty, Proud Mom.

The learning center opened in August of 2020 with 8 children. It now has 105.

And, officials say plans are on the drawing board to, somewhere down the line, add after-school care and summer care.