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Teacher Who Adopted Student Watches His Graduation 24 Years Later

A first-grade teacher who eventually became the formal guardian of her student watches him achieve the one goal she wanted for him all of his life -- graduating from college.
"Growing up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago like I did, it's easy to stray into the streets. And that's one thing she kept me away from," said Anton Grant on Friday afternoon.

Walking across the stage to get your diploma is a big deal -- the culmination of years of hard work, determination and the gateway to your future.

Graduation day for 30-year-old Grant has a bit of a different meaning.

"Especially when children have problems in their lives, the first thing they give up is school. But he hung on, and so today, graduation day, means everything," said Mary Peterson, Grant's godmother and the woman who raised him and his brother.

Anton was just six years old when Peterson says she saw something special.

"He was a student in my first-grade class. In fact, I failed him," she remembered.

For the next four years, Peterson would send Anton a bookbag full of school supplies, until sixth grade, when he couldn't be found.

"He had become a ward of the state, living in a group home," she explained, which she learned after tracking him down and visiting him.

"It one of the worst experiences of my life. The group home system wasn't a good system back then," Grant said.

And it was then that Peterson realized she had to do something.

"I wanted to give him something that no one could take away. I wanted to educate him. I set out on a journey to get the boys through college, and I did," she said.

Years later, she officially became Anton and his brother's guardian.

Peterson documented their journey in this book, called Jason: Ward of the State, using an alias for Anton at the time, but linking it back to him through her dedication.

After all they've been through -- trials, tribulations and triumphs -- both Grant and Peterson can agree on one thing.

"I stayed focused, I knew my education would provide a good life for me and that's what I'm determined to do, and keep doing, after graduation," Grant said.

"That was our bond, no matter how difficult it was, he stayed in school," Peterson added.

It may have been a long and difficult road to make it to this point, but it's only the beginning to a better future.

Grant's path of education is not over yet --  he plans to head to Texas A&M to pursue a business degree next.
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