High school seniors all across the area walked the stage Saturday, signifying the end of a lifelong journey.
“I’m so excited, it doesn’t feel real," East High School graduate Renaya McDonald said. "I’m so happy right now.”
For some, like students at East High School, graduation was the result of overcoming obstacles.
In 2015, only 19% of the senior class graduated. Saturday, that number was up to 60% thanks to an educational partnership with the University of Rochester.
“It’s not as crazy as it used to be before. It’s more nice, and I feel more people want to come to school," McDonald said. "And more people want to learn, and get their diploma and not drop out.”
For others like Pyar Mo of Edison Career and Technology High School, graduation was the result of overcoming adversity.
“It felt like a little nervous, but very happy at the same time," Mo said. "All these mixed emotions in me, it’s indescribable.”
Mo came to the United States from Thailand in 2012, a refugee of Myanmar; an Asian country embroiled in a civil war.
Her family didn’t speak any English, but Saturday she graduated the salutatorian of her class.
“I used my family struggle as motivation to keep me going, to keep me on the road to success.” Mo said.
For another student at Edison, graduation was the result of overcoming tragedy.
“She would’ve been proud of me," Edison graduate Develle Knight said. "She is proud of me right now, and that’s actually one of the things that drove me to get my diploma.”
Knight lost his mother Syreeta Knight in December of 2017, after police say she was beat to death by an ex-boyfriend.
“I walked the stage for both of us," Knight said. "I walked it for my mom, knowing I was going to do it anyways, and I walked it for myself knowing I can do it. That it wasn’t as hard as everyone says it is.”
For all these students, it’s the close to a chapter. But the start of another.
“I know my next step is uncertain, like when I first came to America," Mo said. "So I feel very uncertain, but I know I have to believe in myself.”