Eric Degiaimo had never been asked to make a speech before.
"I never knew I would get an award or have an event like this happen to me before. I don't know, I thought I was not special enough for this," he said.
Eric was awarded for educational excellence by the group advocates for children, but the road here was paved with abuse.
"I have been abused a lot, especially by my sister's boyfriends and other people in my family," he said.
Eric's mother died when he was eight. He and his older sister were taken in by their grandparents, who died a few years later. He has only bad memories about his mother.
Of course, all too many children have suffered abuse and the trauma that results, but those helping him say Eric has suffered more than most.
"The extreme things that he experienced were just so devastating compared to even the kids I've seen in foster care," Alice Rosenthal of Advocates for Children said.
Eric suffered through a series of foster homes, a group home and a very bad city high school. In the meantime, he met social worker Angela Degiaimo, who became his mentor, later became his foster parent, and last year, and finalized adopting him.
"And people tell me all the time, 'Oh, you know...I admire what you did and he's so lucky to have you and?' I don't think he's lucky to have me. I think every child deserves to have a stable home and every child deserves to have a parent," Degiamo said.
Eric is in his second year at the Smith School, a school consisting of special needs students ranging from academic to social to emotional needs. He also has a safe home.
"Like somebody is actually taking care of me for the first time in my life," Eric said.
And Eric says, for the first time, he can imagine a future.
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