High school came with a unique set of challenges for Hipolito Garcia, Jr.
The teen transferred into Hackensack High School as a junior in 2017, after having immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities.
His dad, mom and two sisters moved to Boston, leaving Garcia alone in Hackensack with his grandparents.
He barely spoke English. His future was uncertain.
Now that Garcia, 18, finished the past two years with all As and Bs, all that's left to do is graduate.
The only problem is that he's set to leave for the U.S. Marine Corps on June 24, which means he'll miss his high school's graduation ceremony by one day.
To make sure he gets the recognition he deserves, Hackensack High School will honor Garcia with his own ceremony this Friday, June 21 at 1:30 p.m., on the football field.
Principal Jim Montesano described Garcia as a "fine student, upstanding citizen and dedicated American."
The teen said he's humbled and happy that his hard work paid off.
"My family moved for better opportunities," Garcia told Daily Voice.
"My mom said she wanted us to become professionals here in the U.S., and in my country, there's a lot of delinquency and the government isn't what it should be."
Garcia made school his first priority.
"I didn’t want to be a high school dropout," he said. "I always kept my grades up, went to my classes and turned my work in."
Garcia's English improved quickly.
Understanding his teachers became easier. Making friends came seamlessly.
Things were falling into place.
Earlier this year, Garcia decided he wanted to become a Marine so that the military would cover the cost of college.
With high school behind him and a new future ahead, Garcia is fine-tuning his fitness to prepare for boot camp at Paris Island in South Carolina.
"I'm not scared, I'm excited," he said.
"People say that it’s a lot of pressure but I don’t feel it like that.
"I feel like I’m going to boot camp. I’ll do what I have to do, make my years and everything will be fine."
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