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Student with brain cancer graduates from high school

Created: 05/12/2014 6:30 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It’s high school graduation time in New Mexico, and one young man who got his diploma Monday earned it the hard way, taking more time and a lot more trouble than most people ever do.

Zackary Smith has brain cancer. He’s not going to make it for the long haul and he knows it, but the tumors in his head and in his spine didn’t stop Zack from one of the crowning achievements of his young life. At 1 p.m. Monday, Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Winston Brooks handed Zack his diploma and congratulated him in a one-man graduation ceremony at the Ramada Inn. That’s been Zack’s home away from home for the past year.

"I would just like to say thank you to everyone who helped me on this journey," Zack said, before tossing his graduation hat into the audience.

Zack earned his diploma in Albuquerque through the APS hospital-home program. He was a Clovis High School student when he was diagnosed back in 2010. The 20-year-old has been through it all: Stem cell transplant, bone marrow transplant, and a year of treatment at UNM Hospital where APS teachers helped him earn those credits and get his diploma.

Speech is difficult for Zack, but his message is clear and nobody knows it better than his mom, Debra Smith.

"It makes me proud to know that even though Zack is going through what he’s going through, that he gives inspiration to others," Debra said. "That no matter what you go through in life that anything is possible and that he fights so hard to achieve it."

"All right! Amen! " Zack broke in, laughing. "The sky’s the limit!"

A month ago, Zack learned that there are no more treatments left for his cancer. The doctors can’t cure him.

You might guess that a diploma is not the end of the line for a guy like Zack Smith, and you’d be right. He plans to enroll at CNM and get busy on the next challenge.


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