Migrant students often face and overcome obstacles that most students do not encounter on their path to a high school diploma.
Like traveling to different states to help their families in agricultural work, sometimes forcing them to catch up on schoolwork after missing the first few weeks of classes when a harvest is late.
The stories these students told on Thursday evening during the 32nd annual Migrant Education Awards Ceremony, held at Palmetto High School, were unique but also similar.
Like Lakewood Ranch High School senior Virgilio Lopez.
Lopez moved to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 5 years old, which was also the first year he said he went to help his family with agricultural work in Michigan.
"Ever since I got here," Lopez wrote, "I have found a way to help my parents out financially, which meant starting to go pick cucumbers, jalapenos and even oranges by the age of 13."
Being the eldest of four, Lopez is the first one to graduate high school in his family.
And then there's Jorge Luis Castillo, also a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School.
Castillo says he and his family lived in his father's semi-truck until he was 5 as they traveled all over the east coast to find work and keep up with the agricultural seasons. Now, Castillo will be the first in his family to graduate high school and hopes to be an aviation mechanic to work on commercial airplanes.
For Palmetto High School senior Marcelo Gallardo, being an only child didn't relinquish him from working in the fields with his parents and grandparents.
"We traveled constantly," Gallardo wrote, "sometimes two to three weeks at a time to various states like South Carolina, Indiana and Ohio. Growing up it was very hard to call a place home."
Nevertheless, Gallardo overcame the hardships and will graduate in May with hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Lopez, Castillo and Gallardo, along with another 15 graduating migrant students, were recognized for their accomplishments and hard work.
The event honored the students and their families in the Manatee County School District migrant academic programs and included a presentation of student and parent awards and scholarship announcements for graduating seniors.
Migrant education is a national program that provides children of migrant farm workers with support services and access to education. According to Harold Medina, migrant education coordinator for the school district, 475 migrant students attend schools in the county.
The migrant program provides services to an additional 125 children who are too young for school or not enrolled, the school district says.
Jessie Garcia, a former Manatee County migrant worker who graduated from Southeast High School and now serves as a guidance counselor at Manatee Technical College, addressed the students, alternating between Spanish and English.
Garcia talked about his life as a migrant student in Manatee County and how much his family's constant movement during the seasons made growing up tough.
"My life has been met with many challenges, but I have been able to overcome them," Garcia said. "If there is one thing you can remember from me ... it would be to never let your past or present situation determine or define who you can be or what you can do."