When Corey Patrick boarded the bus in his graduation gown, he didn't expect to go viral. He just wanted to graduate with his friends.
Patrick had attended school in Tarrant, Alabama, since the fourth grade. So when his family moved far away from his high school he decided that he was going to do whatever it took to stay with his classmates. For him, that meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. every morning so he could catch the bus at 5:41 a.m. It was a trip he took every morning this school year.
He found himself on that same bus the morning of his graduation.
According to WBRC, Patrick's family didn't have the transportation to get him to his ceremony. He didn't even know if they'd be able to make it to watch him cross the stage. But the same perseverance that helped him earn his diploma — “I had to do what was necessary for me to walk this year,” Patrick said — pushed him to take the bus one more time. And so he put on his gown and walked to the bus stop, same as always.
Patrick's journey caught the attention of his bus driver, who took a pair of pictures as he headed to his graduation ceremony.
The bus driver posted the photos to Facebook, citing Patrick's determination as an inspiration. She didn't know who he was, she just knew the young man in the graduation gown was doing his best to create a bright future for himself.
“I did it to inspire people on my page,” the driver said of the photos. “I didn’t do it because I knew him. I just did it because he got on my bus and I was inspired that he got on by himself and he was so determined to get it with no one backing him.”
Patrick wasn't looking for any praise, but his story touched the hearts of thousands.
Shortly after the post published, it began to soar. And as it amassed thousands of likes, people had the same question: Who was the young man and what could they do to help?
Soon, Patrick was identified by members of the community — including one of his former teachers — and the attention he's received has been overwhelmingly positive. For a young man who was described by his mother as "quiet, reserved, and humble," it's probably been just plain overwhelming as well. Patrick's family was gifted a new car by radio personality Rickey Smiley, and a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $25,000 for the new grad. According to the New York Daily News, Patrick's also reportedly received a full scholarship to Jacksonville University.
Patrick's hard work is a clear reminder of how important it is to keep going.
There's no denying it must have been hard for Patrick to get out of bed so early every day to get to school. And he had to wait for hours after school to take the bus home, often not getting back home until 7:00 p.m. — just to get up and do it all over again the next day. But he never stopped.
No matter what Patrick does next, it looks like he won't let setbacks get him down. And that's not just a lesson for graduation season. That's something we can all strive for every day.