CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) -- Graduation season is a special time for so many families, as they celebrate the end of one chapter and the start of another. But for two families in the city of Chester, the celebration also represents a determined climb from tough surroundings to the top of the class.
There was much joy in the air as people gathered to celebrate the 2018 graduating classes of Chester High and The Stem Academy.
Superintendent Dr. Juan Baughn of the Chester Upland School District said, "These young folks have so much courage, so much resilience that they just don't know how not to do what we asked them to do, that's a blessing."
And at the top of her class at Chester High is 17-year-old Zyana Tucker-Taylor who graduated with a 3.84-grade point average.
When Action News asked the Chester High valedictorian how she felt. Zyana said, "Good, very amazing."
Zyana plans to go to college but hasn't decided which one or what field of study.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old valedictorian Kamara Staples graduated at the top of her class at Stem Academy with a 4.0 grade point average.
"I just worked really hard and constantly pushed myself, and kept telling myself I could do it, even when people doubted me," said Kamara.
There are those who may feel that Chester, mired in crime and poverty, is hopeless and on the decline. But these students did not let others define who they are and where they are going.
"It was family members, people that were extremely close to me that were telling me these types of things and so I did internalize that but then I found a way to push thru it," added Kamara.
Now planning to go to the University of Connecticut to study marine biology, most of all she thanks her father's strong faith in God.
"To pray for and with us as we struggled in school is to be the biggest support system that there ever could be, and for that Dad, I wanna say thank you," said Kamara.
Kamara's dad, Karl Staples said, "She's gonna do mighty things, great things, we're really blessed and proud."
Stepmom Monica Robinson told Action News she felt "Overwhelmed and very proud of her."
The staff and administrators of Chester-Upland School District may have limited resources and programs, but they managed to produce these fine outstanding graduates destined to make Chester proud.
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Special night for 2 proud graduates in Chester