Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors Receive Honorary Diploma: 'There Were Lots of Tears'

Cleveland kidnapping survivors Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus did not have the chance to graduate with their high school classmates when they should have, but school officials changed that on Wednesday when they gave them honorary diplomas and an afternoon filled with pomp and circumstance.

Cleveland Kidnapping Victims Share Their Harrowing Story in New Memoir

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Show Off Their White House Photos

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus brought home quite the souvenirs from their whirlwind visit to Washington last week – and are sharing the most special (photographic) ones with PEOPLE.

The two Cleveland kidnap survivors met at the White House on May 6 with Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime supporter of legislation to end violence against women. And President Barack Obama dropped by his VP’s West Wing office to say hello.

Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus: Their 'Coolest Experience' Since Being Free

Amanda Berry was overcome by tears as she accepted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children HOPE Award Tuesday night.

“If I could say one thing, it’s this: Never give up hope,” Berry, 28, said as her voice broke, “because miracles do happen.”

At her side was Gina DeJesus, also honored by the National Center.

Michelle Knight: Inside My New Life

Michelle Knight spent nearly 11 years of her life inside a house of horror where she was chained, tortured, raped and beaten. Despite the nightmarish conditions she endured, she wants everyone to know one thing – she’s a survivor.

“I don’t dwell on the past. I really try to look forward,” says Knight, 33, who spoke exclusively with PEOPLE. “I want to be remembered as a victor, not a victim.”

A Year After Their Rescue, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Look to the Future

A year after their rescue from nearly 10 years of captive abuse, two of the three Cleveland kidnapping survivors are marking Tuesday’s anniversary with thanks and by joining others in the fight to protect victims.

“So much has happened this past year,” Amanda Berry said in a statement coinciding with an honor recognizing her and Gina DeJesus at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Hope Awards in Washington, D.C.

“I have grown. I am strong. And I have so much to live for, to look forward to. The future is bright,” added Berry, 27.

Michelle Knight: Cleveland Kidnapper Strung Me Up 'Like a Fish'

One of three women held in a Cleveland man’s home for about a decade says an orange extension cord was used to tie her neck, hands and feet and hang her “like a fish,” according to pre-released clips from a taped interview that will air Tuesday and Wednesday on the Dr. Phil show.

Cleveland Kidnapper's Hanging Death May Have Been Accidental

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro may have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation, not suicide, and two prison guards falsified logs documenting their observation of him in the hours before he died, the state said Thursday.

Castro’s pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles when he was found, leading the state to forward those facts to the state highway patrol to consider the possibility of auto-erotic asphyxiation, according to the report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Ariel Castro Commits Suicide

The man who held three women captive in his home for nearly a decade before one escaped has been found dead and is believed to have committed suicide, a prison official said.

Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, a community located south of Columbus in central Ohio, JoEllen Smith, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesman, said early Wednesday.

Ariel Castro's House Demolished as Survivor Michelle Knight Watches

The Cleveland house of horrors where convicted kidnapper Ariel Castro kept three women captive for a decade went under the bulldozer Wednesday morning.

And there to watch it fall: survivor Michelle Knight, carrying a bouquet of yellow balloons in a symbolic moment of triumph now that she and the other survivors, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, move forward to reclaim their lives.

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