NEW JERSEY (FOX 5 NEWS) - It was a day of celebration for the graduating class from ACT Academy in Paterson, New Jersey. Among the graduates was Mohamad Chacha, a Syrian refugee. In 2011 he and his family left home with nothing. He was 14 years old at the time.
"I didn't leave by my own -- I left because there was a bomb right next to my neighborhood," Chacha said.
The family went to Lebanon for about a month and a half and then went to Cuba. They spent a year and three months in Cuba before coming to Paterson and became one of the first Syrian families accepted into the United States refugee program.
The Chachas struggled to get by. Mohamad, now 19, recalled not speaking a word of English when he arrived. But he was determined to succeed. He said he grabbed every opportunity the U.S. offered.
The hard work paid off. He not only picked up his high school diploma on Friday morning but he addressed his graduating class as their salutatorian. Mohamad said he wants to be an example to everyone about how hard refugees work.
Mohamad is headed to Rutgers University to study engineering. We wish him the best of luck.