Moments before Justina Grant and her Tobinworld classmates accepted their high school diplomas on Wednesday, she was already predicting that tears were bound to fall during the ceremony.
"A lot of tears are going to be shed [today], I can tell right now," the 17-year-old said.
After four years at the school, Justina is looking forward to the future, which was once so uncertain because of the behavioral problems she faced.
"From the background I came from, I didn't think I'd make it here to graduate," she said.
But she's headed down a brighter path now thanks to Glendale's Tobinworld — a school for students who are autistic, have emotional problems or are developmentally disabled.
Like many of the eight other graduates, Justina's next step is college on her way to becoming a nurse or paramedic.
Six additional Tobinworld students, including 22-year-old Diquwyne Johnson, who is speech-impaired, earned certificates for completing Tobinworld's program.
Diquwyne's parents, Zina and Michael Johnson, owed his success to Tobinworld's educators, including founder and executive director Judy Weber.
After four years at Tobinworld, his interactions with others have improved and he's thrived at the school, Michael Johnson said.
This summer, Diquwyne will work on an assembly line.
"If it wasn't for [Judy Weber], we wouldn't be where we [are]," Zina Johnson said. "This works. A lot of people don't know there are schools like this for children with disabilities."
For teacher John Moreno, who has known many of the high school graduates for several years, the graduation ceremony was a bittersweet farewell.
"I think about all the obstacles that they have had," Moreno said. "Some of these kids have such monumental obstacles that getting to this point is something I'm very proud of."
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.