The 27 seniors in the struggling school district in Saginaw County's Buena Vista Township on Tuesday participated in commencement exercises.
The ceremony came after a tumultuous May in which the district laid off its teachers and closed for two weeks when it couldn't meet payroll. The district reopened after the state agreed to release $400,000 it had withheld to make up for earlier overpayments.
"We never thought this day would actually come to pass, said graduating senior Lourenzo Caldwell. "We can say we did it."
The state put a freeze on the district's aid because it couldn't come up with a deficit elimination plan that actually helped to pull the district out of its debt. But the district's board of education approved a plan that the state was able to approve.
District officials said Buena Vista still faces financial troubles and they don't know what will happen in the fall, but the focus Tuesday was on accomplishment.
Valedictorian Rae'Onna Barabino said the district has gone through a difficult time, and she's proud that her classmates overcame adversity.
"I don't know any other school that's gone through as much as we have," said Barabino, who will study nursing at Eastern Michigan University. "When others said we wouldn't see this day, we did."