"I believe as long as you put your mind to it anything is possible," said Ronald Earl Wilson II.
Despite the many odds stacked against him, 21-year-old Wilson is hitting a major life milestone as he becomes a graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia.
"My mother always told me no matter how hard it gets, smile for the camera, never let them see you sweat ? that's been my motto since she passed away," said Wilson.
Wilson lost his mom two years ago from a drug overdose and his father passed away years ago from a massive heart attack.
At the age of 18, Wilson, of Frankford, was left to care for his teenage brother and figure out life on his own.
"I knew I had to step up and take care of my responsibilities as a man, that's what I did, what my mom would want, my dad would want," he said.
He signed up for classes at the Community College of Philadelphia. While working full-time, he joined the school's Center for Male Engagement, a mentoring group to help at-risk males succeed.
"They lifted my spirits so high to get me through CCP," said Wilson.
His bright and determined spirit stands out in the crowd of nearly 2,000 graduates and his story was mentioned during the ceremony.
With a fist pump and a big grin on his face, the motivated young man walked proudly to pick up his hard-earned diploma then, "I did it, mom I did it," he said to himself.
After his community college graduation Wilson plans to begin earning a degree in Physical Therapy at Temple University.