Beating the Odds to Graduate

June 21, 2013 Updated Jun 21, 2013 at 12:46 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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June 21, 2013 Updated Jun 21, 2013 at 12:46 AM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW) Corey Edwards' high school career has seen the challenges of moving from Harlem and persuing his education without his parents around. On Thursday, it also saw him graduate from South Park high school.

"I always knew I would get here one day, but now i'm actually here. It feels great to put on my cap and gown and all that, and next thing I know, I'll be in college," Edwards said.

Edwards is one of fifteen local graduates to be part of the Hillside Scholarship Work Program, aimed at keeping kids enrolled in school through academic assistance and job placement.

"It's our job to make sure that they show up, it's our job to make sure that they put the best effort towards those academics, and it's our job to make sure that they're attitude toward that is on point," Tomorrow Allen, who works with the students in the program, said before the ceremony.

With the graduation rate falling in Buffalo Public Schools, now down to below fifty percent, some educators believe the help from places like Hillside keeps kids from dropping out and making that statistic even worse.

"We of course worry about graduation rates but our big concern is the individual lives of these kids. And changing the fabric of their life and making the outlook of their life better," South Park HS Principal Theresa Schuta said.

Hillside has seen success in Syracuse and Rochester, and has plans to expand in Buffalo with the simple goal of seeing more students walk across the stage and see more smiles like Corey's.

"The schools realize that maybe they can't do it alone, and that's why the community based partnerships and the services we offer in collaboration are key ingredients to us being successful and really helping to turn around schools," Exec. Director of Hillside Scholarship Work Program Roderick Green said.

As for Corey, he plans on entering the National Guard before going to college at Medaille with the goal of one day becoming a lawyer.