This article was originally written by Laura Sambol and published on wowt.com on May 13, 2022.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Boys Town class of 2022 is graduating from high school.
The celebration comes at a time when nationwide, teen anxiety and depression appear to be on the rise.
Boys Town is a local nonprofit specialized in helping children in need. There, hundreds of children live on a campus where they receive care and guidance for a wide range of behavioral, emotional and academic issues.
Student Maddie Hagan is reaching a milestone she never thought possible.
“I'm glad I made it to this point because three years ago I never imagined I'd graduate from high school," Hagan said.
The 18-year-old is one of 55 students in her class. Many students came from cities overcome by gangs, or towns torn apart by addiction.
Hagan says Boys Town helped her turn her life around. She said, “Before coming to Boys Town I was a really broken individual. Here I am rest assured that when I go to bed at night I'm in a safe place, and a lot of people can't say that."
Executive Director of Home Campus, Angela Powers, says Hagan's story is not unique.
“Our kids come from all different backgrounds," Powers said. “They have issues with behaviors, issues with mental health. They've been through more in their lives that most people will ever have to endure."
Powers said she noticed even more kids struggling during the pandemic.
“I would say over the past few years we are seeing more anxiety and depression. We are absolutely seeing it being a challenge for kids to really go outside their comfort zone," she said.
Hagan considers herself fortunate. During her time at Boys Town, she got involved with soccer, swimming and cross county. Hagan joined the National Honor Society and became the 121st mayor of Boys Town.
Hagan plans to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha starting this summer.
Check out the full story on WOWT.