GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) We've heard situations where students have gone from homeless to Harvard and now we have a local success story, much the same.
Instead of Harvard it's East Carolina University, and its Dental School of Medicine.
Like many students, Christian Penister credits mentors and teaching for helping him. Especially his first teacher. His mother.
Penister is finishing his undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry and just got the news of his life.
Penister says, "Yes! I have been accepted into East Carolina University's School of Dental Medicine."
Penister says, "I began this dream at nine years old. It's never been about me. I watched my family struggle my entire life and I've always had this idea that I wanted to help the people around me, to help my family and at nine years old that was instilled in me and throughout my time here at ECU I've kept that passion within me and it's been burning to just provide service to help to others as much as I can and so becoming a dentist and to serve the people of North Carolina, the underserved and rural areas in North Carolina."
Dental schools in other states were eyeing Penister too, but he wanted to stay close to his family, especially his mother in Kenansville.
He says, "Earlier on during our childhood my mother lost her job and so we were homeless and we had to stay in homeless shelters, we had to stay with friends and family and my mother didn't have a job so a lot of that weighed on our family, took a toll for me especially being in high school and trying to deal with the battles of depression and not being able to have a new pair shoes coming after Christmas and stuff like that and so I know struggles are for a reason and I know God has blessed us to be in a better situation now but we've had to see through a lot of things."
Much like the town damaged by Hurricane Florence flooding last year, his mom Germita Harvey suffered too.
Harvey says, "I laid down and in the middle of the night I couldn't move".
That night in October Harvey had a stroke.
She says, "I feel pretty good. I am blessed to be here. I'm not 100% but I'm blessed to be here. Any day above ground is a good day."
Still recovering but once again able to wrap both arms around her son, and alive to hear more about being accepted into dental school.
Harvey says, "So emotional that he literally cried for a while. The joy was overwhelming. I cried of course, super proud and they gave him a scholarship."
It's much needed financial help to make those childhood dreams of becoming Dr. Penister come true.
Christian says, "She's very passionate and strong woman, I can tell you that. I have no clue of how she managed to take care of five children on her own and make way for the bills and when we were struggling make way for food and things like that I have no clue. She is, she's a warrior."
A woman he says has battled for his success.