EDGEWATER - Making sure they get things right is what Principal Michael James has done for years the day before commencement at Jefferson Junior/Senior High School.

"So, today is all about getting ready for graduation," James said.

He rehearses the ceremony. He makes sure everyone knows where to walk on stage. But, this day isn't just about getting seniors like Bryan Ascencio Romero ready. It's about getting everybody ready.

"They look up to us, so it's a good way for them to like imagine how they can be in the future," Ascencio Romero said.

He and the rest of the graduating class are dressed in cap and gown and going to all three schools that feed into Jefferson - Lumberg, Molholm, and Edgewater elementary schools.

James said they inspire the younger kids.

"They look up to them for reaching this milestone," James said.

This is a milestone that many kids in this area don't reach.

"It's pretty crazy to be honest because our freshman year, we started with a lot of students and as the year broke down, it went on to smaller and smaller size."

Five years ago, James said the graduation rate at Jefferson was at 64 percent. This year, he said it's closer to 75 percent. But the overall size of the class is small at 66 seniors.

"Every single student has a different story. Every single student has a different pathway," James said.

Ascencio Romero's would have to cut classes to take care of family or to work.

"I would have to go some days, not show up like two days to go to work, help pay bills, ask my mom to excuse those days then go back to school," Ascencio Romero said.

James said his students face all sorts of challenges.

"But our kids persevere and they are resilient and they overcome the obstacles that are set before them," James said.

That's why the seniors do this walk every year. They want to show the younger students that they can graduate no matter what challenges lie ahead.

"Honestly, it makes me feel like I made a difference in their lives like a difference in the community," Ascencio Romero said.