Monterey High School bid farewell to over 80 graduates Wednesday evening, the highest number of seniors since its establishment, said Principal Ann Brooks.
"What these kids have done is learned resiliency skills," Brooks said. "Many of them have had really hard times. They've lost family or friends, they've struggled with substance abuse themselves or [their] family or friends [have]. We've had some who ended up out of their homes because of economic times, experiencing poverty."
Other students, she said, coped with their family members' serious illnesses.
After falling behind at their traditional high schools such as Burroughs or Burbank, the students were directed to enroll at Monterrey where they could make up credits and get back on the path to graduate.
Before Wednesday's ceremony began, a few students said they were judged by others after saying they were attending the continuation school.
Alexi Sogoyan, 18, said the school was known to those around her "for people that are not going to get anywhere in life," she said, but her perception of it changed when she attended class there.
"I realized how much of a good school it was because teachers actually work with you and they don't put you aside. They actually help you," she said.
In the fall, she plans to attend college and eventually become a nurse.
Fellow graduate Linda Reyes Echeverria, 17, said she plans to study marketing at Woodbury University.
"A lot of people said I wouldn't be able to do it," she said of graduating. "I proved them wrong."
For Aaron Rojas, 18, who said he had his own misconceptions about the school, he found early on that the educators there cared about his success, and in turn, the experience affected his relationships with others and himself.
"It makes you want to do better for yourself and for your family," he said.
Rojas enlisted in the U.S. Army and will move to Georgia for training in December.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.