HOLLAND, Mich. -- Thursday's graduation ceremony at West Ottawa High School will be extra special for one student.
Not only is Michael Cruise graduating high school, he’s the first in his family to go to college. The road to graduation has not been an easy one, but his determination has put him on the path to becoming a first generation college bound student with a lot to share.
As Cruise says his goodbyes on his last day of high school he says he can't help but reflect on how far he's come.
"As a freshman I thought, aw it's going to take forever but now it's here it's a crazy feeling," he said.
But getting to this moment wasn't easy. Throughout his childhood Michael attended six different schools, living all over the state and often in bad situations. With his father not around he had to help his mother and 11 other siblings anyway he could, often riding his bike four miles to and from school everyday.
"It hasn't been easy, there's been a lot of family issues at home and with my mom and some choices that she made and it kind of made it difficult for all of us," Cruise says.
It was in 11th grade that he witnessed his brother attempt suicide. It was a moment that inspired him to be a role model to his younger siblings.
"I'll be the first one to go to college out of all of them but yeah so I'm really trying to create those footsteps for my little brothers 'cause they don't have anyone to look up to so I want to be that person for them to look up to and that's, that's a lot of motivation for me," says Cruise.
His teacher, Amy Wilson, has watched him grow over the last four years and says he remains positive and is a role model to many students.
"One of the things about Michael that I love is that he has really set his self up to be a role model for other students. I always knew he was going to do great things. He's just that kid that he is so motivated and he's always been motivated and he'll do whatever he sets his mind to," said Wilson.
Now on the way to the next chapter of his life he wants young people in his position to know that their past does not have to become their future.
"I knew I wasn't in a place that I wanted to stay. I didn't want to have this life for my family. You can do something about their life, it doesn't matter where they come from and it's not going to effect where you end up," says Cruise.
Michael will attend his dream school, Michigan State University, in the fall. He says he plans to major in biology in hopes of becoming a doctor or a teacher like those who inspired and helped him throughout high school.