A Hanford High School graduate was used to being told "never."
Everyone told Bryson Alger he'd never graduate, go to college, and be anything more than what he was right now — a special needs student.
"I looked at myself a lot and thought I wasn't going to be able to do a lot of things other kids would be able to do," Bryson said. "Everybody that I talked to said, 'He's not going to be on the same learning level as everyone else.'"
Bryson proved them all wrong when he put on his cap and gown Friday and received his degree.
The road to the stage in Toyota Center was a rocky one.
Last year, Bryson did everything shy of dropping out. He'd skip school if he didn't feel like going, spending his time sleeping or being sick.
"It was either, 'There's no point in going,' or 'My grades won't really be affected by this, so I'll just sleep in.' ... I just took three days or a week off, and then come back and do all the work."
Bryson ignored his parents when they stepped in and told him to go to school.
It was a combination of his love for computers and an advertisement for Full Sail University that changed his mind.
The advertisement said he could make a living building computers for others.
It got Bryson to believe he might have a future beyond high school.
"I made that shift by getting Rockstars, and going to be earlier and just telling myself, 'We're going to be doing this,'" he said.
Bryson started doing classwork in his extra periods. He read the books, took the tests and turned himself into an above-average student.
Teacher Rebecca Sparks noticed the difference. She saw a student invested in his future.
"He's spent a lot of time — which could have been free time for him — working on his assignments," she said.
Bryson now says he wants to go to Columbia Basin College in Pasco in the fall and eventually transfer to Washington State University.
He left a letter for the incoming freshman to tell them that they can make it too, just like he did.
The real key was something he learned in the last few months: Don't be afraid to be different.
"Even though you're different, it doesn't really matter. It's actually good that you're different," he said. "You're not like the person next to you."