Standing in his cap and gown before his graduation celebration Thursday, William Preciado said he felt nervous and even a bit shocked, but he was happy to show his family that he could keep his promise to graduate high school.
"It's a huge achievement for me," Preciado said.
Now, he plans to go to a local community college to prepare for a career in law enforcement.
Preciado was one of 12 students who graduated from 37ECB on Thursday and one of about 75 who received a diploma from a Juvenile Court and Community School (JCCS) this week.
At 37ECB, a JCCS school in City Heights, Site Administrator Gretchen Rhoads praised the students' hard work.
"You all took risks, you all struggled, and you all succeeded," she said.
Preciado said everyone at the school helped him keep his promise to his family.
"Whenever I had trouble, they would help me out," he said. "They pushed me to graduate here, so I felt a lot more support here than I did anywhere else."
David Evans, a graduate from Bayside Community School in Barrio Logan, said he was also thankful that teacher at his school believed in him.
"If feels good to have finished after having people tell me I wouldn't, so now I'm just enjoying the moment and doing me from now on," Evans said. "I know I can make it anywhere I want if I believe in myself."
The celebrations often brought tears to students and family members, and they shared words of thanks and encouragement.
"It has been a struggle," one mother said at the Bayside Community School graduation. "To see you here today and know that you can do this, I would do anything in life."
Some of the graduates said they were motivated to finish high school to set a good example for their own young children.
At Monarch School in downtown San Diego, 17 students celebrated their graduation Friday. Monarch School serves children impacted by homelessness.
In South County, 24 students from three community schools celebrated together.
San Diego SOAR Academy, which serve students who are incarcerated, held two graduation ceremonies this week, celebrating the success of four students at each. One was at Camp Barrett on Wednesday and another at the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility on Thursday.
"There's nothing more important to us than to make sure that our kids get what they need and what they deserve," San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold said.
More JCCS graduation ceremonies are planned for the next few weeks, including commencements in North County and East County on June 12, at San Pasqual Academy and Career Technical Education Center on June 14, at the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility on June 21, and at Second Chance Community School on June 26.
JCCS provides a fully accredited educational program for school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, probation, or one of the 42 school districts in San Diego County. Services are provided to students who are incarcerated, pregnant or parenting, in foster care, expelled, chronically truant, in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and experiencing homelessness.
JCCS serves nearly 5,000 students per year at more than 20 sites across the county.