HOPKINS, Mich. — A Hopkins high school senior is walking across the stage this week after an unusual end to her high school experience.
She’s fresh out of boot camp, now officially a Marine, and soon to be high school graduate.
Laura Velderman was halfway through her senior year of high school when her recruiter informed her she could start basic training right away.
With her classes complete and credits collected, she headed to the three-month boot camp.
While there, she gained the "Molly Marine" reward for showing Marine characteristics from the beginning of training. With the award, she was able to graduate as a private first class Marine.
Now, she’s on her way to her second graduation this month, getting a high school diploma.
"To see her to be able to walk with her friends at graduation in the uniform that she worked so hard to get is just awe-inspiring," says Laura's mother, Renee Velderman.
But being able to complete the program and walk with her graduating class as a Marine is the proud moment she and her mother have been waiting for.
"There's no words to describe like exactly what it means to hold my EGA in my hand, what it means to look down and see U.S. Marines and my last name, what it means to just wear the uniform," Laura Velderman says. "And be a Marine during high school graduation, that's just something you can't really replace."
Pfc. Velderman will graduate from high school on Friday but that's not all. On Thursday, she will be honored at the state capitol for her hard work.