BOSTON (CBS) — With smiles as bright as their futures, 36 Boston Public Schools students were honored during the annual Valedictorian Luncheon at the Boston Harbor Hotel Tuesday. Each one of these students has an amazing story of how they’ve come this far.

Nearly half of the valedictorians were born outside the United States, like 18-year-old New Mission High School senior Filomena Da Silva. Originally from Cape Verde, Filomena said her family arrived in America in search for a better life. “It’s incredible to think that a person like me, a person who only came here 6 years ago, can have the opportunity be top of my class,” she said.

New Mission High School senior Filomena Da Silva (WBZ-TV)

Steeven Cajuste of the Urban Science Academy came from Haiti in 2011 after the Earthquake destroyed his home. “It was devastating but we knew we had to leave if we wanted to get something better,” Steeven said. When he arrived, he didn’t speak any English. “My mom was working two or three jobs to basically feed us and everything. Basically, it was a hard situation. We lived in one room and there was five or six of us.”

Steeven Cajuste of the Urban Science Academy (WBZ-TV)

But thanks to the help of some amazing mentors teachers and their parents both Filomena and Steeven are now on their way to Dartmouth College. “I never thought I would go to a prestigious school like Dartmouth,” Steeven said. He says he plans to study biology.

Filomena has other plans in mind. “I want to study political science so that I can go to law school and become an immigration lawyer… I want to give a voice to the powerless,” she said.

Steeven said, “My message is to never give up and seek support because there are people out there to help you.”

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