The shy boy with the big smile stood quietly as his principal spoke to the crowd.
"I'd like to introduce the world to Michyl Shaw," Moton Elementary School principal Mark Griffith pronounced. "The coolest thing about Michyl Shaw is that he's a 13-year-old fifth-grader. Now think about that. Thirteen years old."
The annual Turnaround Student Achievement Awards program Wednesday night was a chance to recognize students from each of Hernando County's schools who have demonstrated remarkable reversals in their lives.
This is Michyl's story.
He came to Moton, in Brooksville, during the 2010-11 school year. He was 9. He had never spent any meaningful time in school.
Homeless, he had bounced around from shelter to shelter. He lived in motels, cars, on the street and wherever else he could. He has no memories from kindergarten. Or first grade.
After a surprise phone call, Michyl came to Brooksville and moved in with his father, who hadn't known he even had a son.
Griffith recalled Michyl's first day at Moton.
"We had no academic record of Michyl," he told the audience, sitting in the cafeteria at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics. "And here we are with a 9-year-old that had never been in school."
School officials gave him a test to see what he could do. He scored at a low first-grade level.
"We didn't know what to do with him," Griffith said. "He didn't know anything. He knew nothing."
Because of his age, the principal said, school officials thought a second-grade class would be most appropriate for him. So that's where they put him.
He struggled academically and socially. He was quiet, introverted, not trusting.
The school advanced him to third grade, but then there were concerns he would be retained if he failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
But during the fall of that year, things started to click. He passed the FCAT and moved on to fourth grade.
"The reality is, he started zooming," Griffith said.
By the end of that year, he was outperforming his grade level.
Now, as a fifth-grader, Michyl is two years above grade level in math, and Griffith expects he will make top marks on this year's FCAT. His reading scores are also high.
He's so conscientious, he tracks his own grades online.
"He really is a testament to stability and hard work," Griffith said.
Next year in middle school, he's going to try and catch up with his age-appropriate class.
"I have no doubt that he is going to do great things in middle school," Griffith said.
In a quick 10-second speech, Michyl thanked everyone in his life for helping him and giving him the courage to get through the year.
His father, Carlos Gonzalez, who sat near the back during the ceremony, beamed with pride.
"We've been blessed, he said. "Thank God."
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.