MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Many in the Tennessee Valley are walking across the stage this week to accept their diplomas.
It is a day of pride for many parents, but one mom in particular is beaming with joy. It is a day she wasn't sure she would ever see.
"It brings tears to my eyes. I'm just so happy, and overjoyed that my son is graduating," said an emotional Valerie Hager, mother of two Sparkman High School graduates.
It's a proud feeling knowing your little boy is taking that first step into adulthood.
"I hope I make it through graduation without crying too much." But even if she does, it's worth every tear.
It`s a miracle that "we're able to see this day, which we didn't know if we were going to be able to or not."
Because her oldest son Branden has a rare syndrome, called Sanfilippo Syndrome.
Life started out fairly normal for Branden, but when the neurological genetic syndrome started to take over, he became non-verbal and unable to care for himself.
"When he got his diagnosis they told me he didn't have long to live, it was a terminal illness.," she remembered. "And I said 'It isn't over until the fat lady sings!'"
Branden is now 21, and his mom Valerie has cared for him along the way. As a single mom with two other kids, it wasn't easy. "Without the Lord, I would have never done what I've done today," she said.
But today isn't just about Branden and his accomplishments.
His younger brother Derrick graduated from Sparkman High School today, too. "He helped me tremendously with Branden."
Today was no exception. Derrick pushed his brother across the stage so they could receive their diplomas together. "They're close and they're good brothers. It's a wonderful thing for my sons."
Valerie told us Derrick plans to go to school to become a doctor in order to help others like Branden, whose syndrome is not widely understood.