CINCINNATI -- Moustafa Djuma's mother was deported to Senegal during his freshman year at Western Hills University High School -- an emotional event that could have sent him spinning off his axis and scuttled his plans to be the first college graduate in his family.
It could have. It didn't.
"I really didn't know what to do," he said Monday. "I was pretty distraught, but I still continued to work hard and go through all the work to get to where I am now."
Djuma, who will graduate from Western Hills this spring as class salutatorian, is one of five Cincinnati Public Schools students whom Miami University will recognize Tuesday in its first-ever "Academic Signing Day."
He and the other four honorees are all first-generation college students whose grades have earned them full-ride scholarships to the university, including money for books, housing and tuition.
All five are participants in Cincinnati Public Schools' MORE -- Men Organized, Respectful and Educated -- program, which focuses on giving young black men and male students considered "at-risk" the encouragement and mentorship they need to build financial, academic and leadership skills for life.
"It's amazing to have five students who do very well in the classroom and are respectful, handle themselves with class and dignity, (and) are great representations for the district and the MORE program," MORE district coordinator William Johnson said.
He added he hoped Academic Signing Day -- a grades-focused answer to the hotly anticipated athletic signing days that dominate sports news -- would make more young men aware of the scholarship opportunities that exist outside of sports.
The scholarships offered to Djuma and his four counterparts total more than $560,000, according to Miami University.
For his part, Djuma plans to become a software engineer and lift his entire family up with him.