The Coachella Valley Unified School District is celebrating the district's summer graduating class of 2016.
CVUSD officials said an additional 20 senior students whom participated in the Summer Online Credit Recovery Program received their high school diploma during a commencement celebration at the district's office on Tuesday.
Thirteen of the summer graduates are from Coachella Valley High School, five are from Desert Mirage High School, and two of them are from La Familia High School, according to the district's news release.
Francisco Valdez from Desert Mirage High School was among the students excited to have been able to finish course requirements through the Credit Recovery Program, allowing him to be part of the graduating class of 2016.
District officials said Valdez fell behind when his grandfather became sick and he was needed at home to help his family care for him. Francisco struggled to catch up, but he said he never lost sight of getting to the finish line.
"To be able to go home and tell my parents and grandparents I got my diploma -- I was super happy. It's an amazing feeling of accomplishment," said Valdez.
He now plans on continuing his education to become a pharmaceutical technician.
"Caring for my grandfather actually spurred my interest in pharmaceuticals," he said. "I want to be able to help others."
Officials said the number of Coachella Valley Unified students on the Road to Educational Excellence is at a record high. Last year, 84% of high school students graduated, marking a 5.3% increase from the 2014 graduation rate. The district is among the top five Riverside County districts achieving the largest graduation rate increase over the past six years.
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees and I, we are incredibly proud of our senior students reaching this major milestone," said Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams. "We share the excitement and tremendous pride your families and friends feel as you receive your diploma. We look forward to your continued journey down the Road to Educational Success."