NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Each Martin School of Choice graduate has their own unique story of achievement. Some didn't fit in at the traditional high school. Some needed to check their attitude at the door. For Chelbi Cates, 17, neither reason applied.
"When I came here, I was in a car accident, and I broke my back in five places. And I was real defeated over that, and I didn't think I was ever going to get past it," Chelbi said.
Chelbi loved the traditional high school setting, but the extreme pain made it difficult to keep up. Fortunately, NISD counselors told her about the Martin Center where teachers and staff meet individual needs.
"They made it where I could come to school, and I was comfortable, and I wasn't having to leave everyday because I was in pain," explained Chelbi.
Suddenly, the high school junior was flying through her lessons. "I ended up finishing all my math classes within three months that I'd been here," Chelbi said.
Now Chelbi is graduating a year early. She was a bright spot for her teachers.
"You are an awesome student. You worked really, really hard. We are really, really proud of you," said teacher Monica Starovic.
Another teacher, Dimitri Starovic II, told Chelbi, "I have no fear for you. Good job."
For Chandi Bentley, this graduation day celebrates the life her daughter could have lost.
"It's absolutely amazing. Chelbi has had a tough last year," Bentley said with tears in her eyes.
On Friday, Chelbi paid tribute to her own achievements as well as those of her classmates. She said wants to change misperceptions about the Martin Center.
"They think it's for the people who just don't care, and really, it's not, it's not true. We work our butts off," Chelbi said.
And the work will pay off if they put their mind to it. Chelbi plans to seek a nursing degree at Angelina College. She's following in her parents' footsteps. They are both nurses who attended Angelina College.