Filled with pride, Christian Calamuci walked back to his seat after receiving his diploma from Port Richmond High School, celebrating not just four years of academic achievement but also walking by himself to receive it.
"Relieved and accomplished. And just very proud of myself for getting to this point," Calamuci said.
Calamuci was born with Blount's Disease - extreme bowed legs - unable to walk.
Last year he decided to amputate his legs below the knee and get prosthetics, vowing to walk at graduation.
"I would do all over again, because it got me to this point right now," Calamuci said.
After the double amputation he endured hundreds of hours of physical therapy, gaining the strength to walk, practicing balance and learning how to use his new legs.
He had frustrations along the way but the encouragement of his classmates and teachers, he says, helped him stay the course.
"I had a lot of my friends I was talking to about it, and they were like, 'Christian, patience is key.' And we are all supporting you whenever you are able to walk," Calamuci said.
Hundreds cheered as he realized his goal.
The school's controversial interim acting principal, Oneatha Swinton, wasn't one of them. She did not attend after her arrest in Pennsylvania Thursday on charges or insurance fraud.
School sources say she was told to stay away to keep the attention on the graduating students.
Staten Island schools superintendent Anthony Lodico has been extremely supportive of Swinton. NY1 asked him for an update on the status of the principal selection process but offered no comment.
The Education Department announced late Monday that it reassigned Swinton and named a new interim principal. Andrew Greenfield.
As for Calamuci, he's preparing for his next challenge: The honors graduate will attend Wagner College where he plans to major in psychology or physical therapy.