An 11-year-old boy who survived the 2010 Haiti earthquake got some special recognition Monday for his hard work in and out of the classroom as he completed fifth grade.
Peterson Exais, 11, has been through more than many adults.
"He's so strong that he doesn't show it. You can never tell he went through such difficult times in the past. He an excellent student," said teacher Al Lawrence.
Monday was Peterson's last day as a fifth-grader at Miami's Enieida Hartner Elementary. He's moving onto middle school after being recognized there, not only for his academic achievements, but for his ability to overcome major obstacles.
"I'm so happy," Exais said. "It's a great thing."
When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Peterson's home was leveled. Peterson was trapped in the rubble for four days until rescuers found him, near death, and pulled him out.
"Instead of me being the teacher for Peterson, he's been my teacher," said another teacher.
Peterson was taken to Miami Children's Hospital, where he underwent dozens of head and facial surgeries to repair his injuries. His experiences inspired Peterson to set his sights on becoming "a plastic surgeon, like my doctor."
"To help other people like they were helping me," he said.
Peterson and his mother are still living in a shelter.
Peterson's determination to conquer all challenges and succeed have allowed him to receive the Pictures of Hope Award for the most inspirational student.
"It's kind of easy, if you put all your might into it. You can do a lot of stuff," he said.