GRUNDY, Va. - Graduating high school is a milestone for anyone.
Now imagine you've overcome challenges just to get to class.
That's the story behind each of the graduates at the Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia.
As News Five's Samantha Kozsey shows us, these students are breaking barriers every step of the way.
One by one, the 2015 graduates of the Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Va are taking a step toward a successful future.
"I'm going to Dartmouth in the fall," says Ebenezer Bulcha.
Yordanos Kereta says, "I'm going to Milligan College and will be studying Nursing."
They are just two of the more than 20,000 children who've studied here and called Mountain Mission home since the school opened in 1921.
They come from across Appalachia and from about 60 countries around the world - escaping poverty and violence.
Many like Ebenezer Bulcha spend their entire childhood here. He's now leaving as the Valedictorian and headed to Dartmouth College on a full scholarship.
Ebenezer Bulcha, MMS Graduate, says, "I have been given every opportunity I can here and everything I need to succeed has been provided for me. There's no excuse not to succeed."
His words are echoed by everyone we talked to at the school.
Yordanos Kereta, MMS Graduate, says, "Mountain Mission changed my life. It is because of this place that I am going to college debt free and I'm so very grateful."
Former CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Bill Weldon gave the commencement address.
In working with Mountain Mission for a decade, Weldon has seen first hand the talent here, hiring many at his company.
They work so hard to accomplish so much. they are extraordinary people who realize the opportunity they have been given and they want to give back," says Bill Weldon.
So as these seniors accept their diplomas and prepare to say goodbye, Weldon and this school family challenge them to see this not as an ending but a beginning.
Weldon says, "They ought to do what they've accomplished here and take their uniqueness and talents and experiences and build on them."
Twenty-one students received their diplomas Friday at Mountain Mission.
More than 95% of the students who attend Mountain Mission go on to graduate college.
Learn more about Mountain Mission.
Help Mountain Mission.