Graduating from high school is a major milestone for any student, but for one Spokane teen it means accomplishing something he never thought was possible.
In two years, 18 year old Nick Mortenson went from being homeless with a .9 grade point average to graduating Saturday morning with a 3.5 GPA.
"I'm excited," said Mortenson.
"I feel pretty proud of myself," he said.
During his sophomore year at John R. Rogers High School Mortenson suddenly found himself homeless after his family was evicted from their home. As a result, his grades suffered.
"I failed 9 classes my sophomore year," he said.
"It was really hard, it was kinda like being abandoned and it hurt and I didn't like it and it sucked," he said.
Mortenson moved in with a neighbor and joined the Army JROTC to for guidance and confidence.
"They helped me with discipline and they helped me become a leader," he said.
"It's not that Nick couldn't do the work, it's that he wasn't focused on doing and making it happen," said Fmr. Col. Donald Oukrop, who leads the junior ROTC at Roger's High School.
Mortenson is one of 307 seniors who graduated from Rogers High School on Saturday at the INB Performing Arts Center.
"It's a remarkable story and Nick is like a lot of kids at Rogers who have to fight through life," said Lori Wyborney, principal at Rogers.
Wyborney said the class of 2012 is the largest graduating class from the school in a nearly a decade.
Spokane Public Schools Superintendent, Nancy Stowell, said Rogers improved its graduation rate faster than any other high school in the state. In 2010, just 53% of all students graduated. However, last year the graduation rate jumped to 76%.
This year's rate has not been finalized but staff believe it far exceeds previous statistics.
Now that Mortenson has his diploma he plans to attend community college and eventually transfer to Eastern Washington University to major in English.
"It's all a mind set," he said.