The Phoenix Charter Academy Network manages a growing portfolio of free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public high schools in Massachusetts. Here’s what’s happening.

CBS News covers Phoenix Chelsea graduation

CHELSEA (CBS) – It’s a special high school graduation for two young women who never thought they’d make that triumphant walk to accept a diploma.

The accomplishment is thanks to their extremely hard work, and a special school that not only cares for them, but for their children as well.

Twenty-one students are graduating from the Phoenix Charter Academy, a public school in Chelsea.

Gisma Ahmed is from Sudan and has a 7-year-old daughter, Ida. Heidy Veliz from Guatemala has a 3-year-old son, Santiago.

Both women are in their 20’s, and both came to the country unable to speak English.

Gisma Ahmed graduates from Phoenix Charter Academy. (WBZ-TV)

Gisma Ahmed graduates from Phoenix Charter Academy. (WBZ-TV)

Graduating is possible because of their hard work and because the academy also provides daycare and pre-school for their kids.

“I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it without that. That made it possible for me to succeed today,” Gisma said.

She escaped the violence in her home country, and Veliz came to the U.S. hoping for a better future.

Today both of their children joined them for the magical moment when their names were called and their diplomas proudly awarded.

“I never thought I can do that. Now, I do it and it’s great,” Veliz added.

Heidy Veliz with her son. (WBZ-TV)

Heidy Veliz with her son. (WBZ-TV)

Other students at the school used to be dropouts, are learning English, or are older. About 15 percent are parents.

“They don’t have access, for a variety of different reasons, to daycare options. So how can you go to high school if you don’t have a daycare for your child?” says Beth Anderson, who founded the school. “We wanted to give them a chance to not only be able to graduate from high school, but also to start and complete college.”

And that is working. Ahmed will attend the Benjamin Franklin Institute in Boston.

“I’m going to study biomechanical engineering,” she says.

Veliz is going to Bunker Hill Community College. “I want to be an engineer,” she says.

The goal is to give their own children a better future.

All 21 of today’s graduates are going on to higher education or military service.

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