"I never took things out of my luggage because it was like my moving closet. It was, you move from home to home, and you just don't know how long you're going to stay at a home," said graduate Rachel Lin.
Lin, 18, grew up in the foster care system, but on Wednesday, she graduated high school with a scholarship to Vassar.
"I want to work my hardest to be the best out there and prove (to) everyone that, you know, even though I'm a foster kid, I can still get somewhere in life," Lin said.
Standing nearby was Lin's older sister Maggie, who is a sophomore at Dartmouth. Like her sister, Maggie got help from United Friends of the Children, a nonprofit group that helps foster children become self-sustaining adults.
"Even if we weren't being physically abused, which is why they put us in foster care in the first place, we were emotionally abused in the sense that everyone was telling us that we couldn't do it and we wouldn't amount to anything," Maggie said.
Other students who graduated with honors included graduate Courtney Nash, who said she's out to prove something.
For graduate Leanna Zabala, her full ride at Occidental College will give her the stability she's always craved.
"I wanted to get out of like, having a hard situation. I wanted to make my life better, so I studied a lot and worked hard, and now I feel like everything's been paid off, and I'm really excited," Zabala said.
The event was hosted by the County's department of children and family services. Hundreds of friends and family filled the audience, and more than $570,000 in scholarships were awarded.