On Tuesday evening, Tyler Botelho, of Union Bridge, became the first Gateway High School graduate to receive a scholarship in the history of Gateway's program.
The graduating senior finished high school in three years, at the age of 17. She received a scholarship from First Financial Federal Credit Union for $3,000, which she will be using towards her education at Carroll Community College.
Janice Moore, the guidance counselor at Gateway, said oftentimes scholarship offerings do not apply to students who are in alternative schools. Scholarships often involve participation in extracurricular activities, which Gateway does not offer.
"So they really have to shine in other areas in order to be in the running for some of these things," she said.
Botelho has shone, Moore said.
On Tuesday, with 11 other graduating seniors, Botelho walked across the stage and accepted her scholarship and diploma. Another eight seniors graduating from Gateway High School did not walk at the graduation ceremony at Carroll Community College.
On top of completing high school in three years, Botelho had a two month hospital stay last year after the birth of her daughter, Melody. A complication from the C-section led to an infection that kept her in the hospital.
Instead of taking a break, Botelho took online courses and teachers visited twice a week to help with schoolwork.
For Botelho's senior year, her mother took care of Melody during school hours. But not completing high school wasn't an option for her, she said.
"If I had to do school at home, that's what I would have done. There was not even a thought about not graduating high school," she said.
Moore said to graduate in three years, Botelho did a lot of independent study coursework. There are days where Botelho made it to class on minimal hours of sleep, Moore said.
Botelho initially came to Gateway in middle school, Botelho said. After a brief time her freshman year at Francis Scott Key High School, she ended up back at Gateway, which she said was for the best.
She said she prefers the smaller class sizes and close relationships she has formed with her teachers. After graduation, Botelho said she hopes she can do something where she gets to help other people, like a teacher or a counselor.
"I've been helped so much by other people - I just, I've been through a lot throughout my life and I just want to be able to help other people by telling them situations I've been through so they know they're not the only ones who struggle," she said.
Botelho has visited the Gateway Middle School several times to tell students about her experiences and hope they learn from them, Moore said.
While Botelho looks forward to the future, she said that she'll miss seeing her teachers every day. For both her and her daughter Melody, Botelho said moving on from high school will lead to a better future.
"It's something I needed to do because it's going to make my life better and make her life better as well," she said in an interview.
Outfitted in black graduation robes and a cap, Botelho gave Moore a hug and walked off the stage to applause and cheers from the audience.