One young man’s determination brought him an unbelievable gift.

When Corey Patrick moved from Birmingham, Alabama to West End at the end of his junior year in high school, he was faced with a hard decision. If he wanted to graduate with his class, in the school system he had grown up in, he’d have to make a long commute every day. His family didn’t have couldn’t drive him to the faraway school because they don’t own a car.

But Patrick knew what he wanted: he wanted to graduate from Tarrant High School.

Why One Student Would Wake Up at 4 AM Every Day

an empty bus
Photo by Lukas Medvedevas

And so, he woke up every day at 4:00 am to get ready for school and catch the 5:41 am city bus that would take him back to his old school.

When most teens were still warm in their beds, Patrick was on a cold bus on his way to school. And when it came time for graduation, Patrick had to catch that same bus to the ceremony. So he donned his cap and gown and made his way to the bus stop.

“I finally accomplished my goal,” he said later — a goal to graduate with his class and go to college.

The driver of that early bus was so impressed with Patrick’s drive and determination over the year that, on the day of graduation, he took a photo of the teen as he got out of the bus and walked toward the high school in his cap and gown.

He posted the photo on social media with the caption, “You tell me this ain’t determination…Sometimes, it’s all in what you want out of life. He didn’t have the best, but he was the best in my eyes. I was so proud of this black young man.”

Thousands of other people were proud of him, too. The photo was shared thousands of times, and news outlets across the country picked up the story. One of those shares reached Rickey Smiley, a local radio personality. Smiley invited Patrick to appear on his talk show.

How a Community Came Together to Gift a Hardworking Teen

“We are so excited to have this young man on the show!” Rickey Smiley exclaimed on air as Patrick walked in. The boy remained humble as Smiley asked him about his decision to make the long commute to Tarrant High School every day.

With a shy smile and a quiet voice, he told the radio show host that it was all worth it: he had been offered a full scholarship to study computer programming at Jacksonville University.

That’s when Smiley asked Patrick to follow him out to the parking lot. He let the teen know how proud the community was of his hard work and determination.

He knew nothing would hold Patrick back from following his dreams, but he wanted to do something to make it a little easier. So Smiley gave him a new car. Now Patrick could attend any university within driving distance.

Patrick stood by the car in disbelief. He didn’t even have a driver’s license yet! But Smiley reassured him that the generous gift came with driving lessons. Patrick thanked everyone who had made the gift possible.

The talk show host praised the boy as “the definition of determination.” Patrick knew what he wanted and he kept his eyes on the prize!


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