KINGS MOUNTAIN (AP) — Tyler Osborne was already familiar with the Kings Mountain High School graduation stage when he walked across it in June.
Stored outdoors under an aluminum canopy, the stage was where Osborne spent nights when he couldn't find a place to stay. With the school's Wi-Fi reaching just far enough, it was also where he did homework for his AP classes.
Osborne became homeless in November 2016 due to a rocky family situation.
But when temperatures dropped below freezing and the winter snow began to fall, he sought help from the community at Kings Mountain High.
"I had to set my pride aside and ask for help. That's where all the teachers had come in to help provide support," Osborne said. "That's when I really opened up my situation and everything, because if I didn't ask for help I was potentially going to die."
A model student
Growing up in a tough situation, Osborne always felt like he wanted to set his own path. School provided him with an opportunity to do that.
"I had to realize the potential that I had," he said. "Academics was the one thing that nobody could take away from me."
Osborne threw himself into schoolwork and sports in high school, and found solace in them when he was without a place to live.
Football, swimming and track helped clear his head during hard times. He took AP and college courses, eventually graduating with a 4.8 GPA.
"It kept my mind off of everything that was really going on," Osborne said. "If I'm staying busy, I'm not sitting around and thinking about what's really happening out there."
Help from the community
When he was homeless, Osborne stayed with friends as often as he could, but he still found himself sleeping behind the school a couple nights a week.
Kings Mountain High was always a place that felt like home, but it was a sense of pride that kept Osborne from confiding in teachers and guidance counselors earlier.
When he finally did ask for help, Osborne quickly found a support system. School staff provided places to stay and resources he needed. Though he still jumped around from place to place at times, Osborne had a roof over his head for his last year and a half of school.
"The community really helped me, and I'm thankful for everybody that did help me because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have made it this far," he said.
Guidance Counselor Jill Cruise and Assistant Principal Jon Fleisher are just a couple names on a long list of staff that helped Osborne along the way.
As an educator, Fleisher said he isn't sure what encouraged him the most: the fact that so many teachers and staff members were willing to help or that Osborne sought out and accepted their assistance.
"It makes me feel good that I'm at a school and in a community that was willing to do that," Fleisher said.
A bright future
Osborne has started to reconnect with his family, and they have grown closer since the days he left home.
During senior year, Cruise helped Osborne apply for the A.C.E. of the Year Award (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence). He was selected as the local winner by the Exchange Club of Shelby from a pool of applicants from each of the area high schools.
Osborne got word at the beginning of summer that he not only won the district title, but the national title, which earned him a $10,000 scholarship.
He was flown out to Reno in July to accept the award.
The funds will come in handy as Osborne heads off to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill later this month. Through scholarships, Osborne earned a full ride and plans to study biology and psychology. His plan is to eventually go to med school to become a psychiatrist.
"We could never afford counseling or therapy so you never really had anybody to talk to," he said. "You could never open up or tell anybody about these things. I've always wanted to give back and to help."