LANCASTER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Lancaster ISD is planning a special graduation celebration on Thursday evening for students who passed all of their classes, but who didn’t get the opportunity to graduate with classmates because they didn’t pass end-of-course exams.

Former students like LaTraze Ford will now get to celebrate in a cap and gown.

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“I cried,” admitted Ford, now 26. “I came home, I cried. It was hurtful. It’s like almost getting close to the finish line in a track race and that last little leg and you couldn’t pull through.”

LaTraze Ford looks over his graduation gown (CBS 11)

Ford said he worked hard, attended summer school and even got a tutor, but anxiety always seemed to get the best of him when taking the math end-of-course exam.

A passing score on the exam is required for graduation.

“Why does a test determine if you graduate or not? If you’re passing all of your classes, straight As and Bs, but you take this test and you can’t graduate? That’s hard. It’s not fair at all,” he said.

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Texas lawmakers agree and have taken a fresh look at the real-life consequences of those make-or-break exams.

Rules have been relaxed to allow students to receive what they say they’ve already earned.

“They’ve done all of their work in their courses, worked hard, but unfortunately when the state tests came, they were unsuccessful,” said Sherese Lightfoot, Lancaster ISD Communications Director, who calls the special graduation celebration a way to “launch” these former students into their futures.

“We are very excited. Our Superintendent Elijah Granger made certain that this was a priority. When the board gave it’s approval, instead of just saying, ‘oh, we’re going to mail them a diploma’. No. We we got cap and gowns, they get to walk across the stage, they got invitations, we have a ceremony. We really want the graduates to know `we value you’, `we appreciate you’, and Lancaster ISD is committed to more than a diploma,” she said.

State education officials couldn’t provide CBS 11 the number of students over the years who had been denied diplomas due failing the the end-of-course exams, butbudding graphic designer and entrepreneur of all-things-artistic, Ford says he knows what’s next for him.

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“I’m going to college,” he insisted with a laugh. “Better late than never.”