When Jasmine Mazard-Larry was starting high school, she and her family were homeless because their house had just burned down.
In her valedictory address, Mazard-Larry told her fellow graduates to, "not ever, ever, and I mean ever," give up on their dreams.
"Rejection doesn’t mean you failed. Rejection means to just be patient. Your time will come," Mazard-Larry said at the May 13 graduation ceremony for Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School in Tampa, Florida. "Let it be a tool to allow yourself to persevere and to not ever, ever, and I mean ever, give up on your dreams."
She also left her fellow graduates with advice on overcoming obstacles, saying, "Do not let obstacles and what people say define who you truly are."
Mazard-Larry's own journey, however, came with many obstacles.
Mazard-Larry, 17, has ADHD and hearing loss, which she said she first thought of as weaknesses.
"I was a little embarrassed," she told ABC News earlier this month. "I didn't really talk about it that much to a lot of people."
Looking back on her academic journey, Mazard-Larry said she realizes that having those disabilities helped her persevere and learn resilience.
"They're not setbacks," she said. "They allowed me to be who I am today."
Those weren't the only challenges Mazard-Larry had to face.
Four years ago her family lost their home in a fire. Her mother, Nidta Mazard, said she was nine months pregnant at the time and said Mazard-Larry's father was severely injured from the fire.
"And here Jasmine, in the midst of it all, [started] high school," Mazard told ABC News. "Her behavior could have changed because of a lot of things that she was already going through, but instead, she used that as a light to help me because I almost died giving birth to my son."
"She's been my light. She's been my rock," Mazard continued. "I just love her so much because she's inspired me to be a better mother and a better person."
Throughout high school, Mazard-Larry said she enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and participated in dual enrollment and the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program, which all helped to boost her GPA.
In addition to receiving her high school diploma, she also received an associate's degree from a local community college this month.
"She's really taken the initiative to go above and beyond," said Marlee Strawn, the principal of Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School. "She had this goal of being top in her class, and ultimately she met it."
Strawn recalled the tenacity Mazard-Larry had after the fire.
"She dealt with a really difficult situation, and … she didn't allow it to stop her from meeting her goals," Strawn said. "I think that's really remarkable, and she was just very goal-driven from day one."
Mazard-Larry was also involved in several extracurricular activities during high school, including the student government association, student council, speech and debate team and art club.
"I use my little brother as my motivation," she said. "Sometimes it can be challenging, but I look at him and I want to be a role model for him."
Mazard-Larry said she has plans to attend college and hopes to become a doctor.
"We all have our own story," she said. "There's the good and the bad, but don't overlook the bad because it makes you who you are. In 20 [or] 10 years from now, you're going to look back and be like, 'I did that. I conquered all of these obstacles, and here I am today.'"
Editor's note: This was originally published on May 22, 2023.