By Alexandria Hoff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a major milestone for dozens of families. They got to watch their loved ones graduate high school in Philadelphia.

Inside of Philadelphia’s School of the Future is a group who has made peace with their past.

“I dropped out of school in the ninth grade for the glitz and glamour of the street life,” Don Williams said.

But it wasn’t glamorous.

For over 30 years, Williams had been among the approximate 150,000 city residents without a high school diploma.

“None of that stuff matters. What matters is that these individuals persisted,” Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.

Hite welcomed the Philadelphia School District’s mid-year class of 2020.

These graduates earned their diplomas through the city’s Educational Options Program — a free pathway for adults to pick up where they left off.

For Williams, now 47, it was his son’s high school graduation that inspired him to go back and earn his own.

“That’s my only son so it put everything in perspective in my life and made me want better, want more,” Williams said.

Ironically, during Eyewitness News’ interview with Williams, we realized that our Joe Holden interviewed him exactly two weeks ago. Like so many, he was grieving the death of Kobe Bryant.

“I’m a Laker diehard,” Williams said.

Of course, Holden didn’t know that Williams was approaching his high school graduation. And it turns out, neither did Williams’ family.

“I never told my sisters and brothers I went back to school,” he said.

Late last month, he was able to share with his siblings not that he was going back to school, but that he had finished.

It was a proud achievement for all the grads who had the courage to make the grade.

The Educational Options program is open to Philadelphia residents with at least eight class credits under their belt. It is free and open to adults of any age.

Alexandria Hoff