SULLIVAN, Ohio - If you've ever been to Sullivan, you've likely seen an Amish buggy or two. In the wide open farmlands two cultures live side by side, one embracing the modern world the other living with limited forms of technology.
Amid the stillness of the town, Black River High School is its heart. Friday, tradition called for graduating seniors to parade in their gowns through the middle school giving high fives to students who cheered them on. In the crowd are two cousins who almost didn't make it to graduation day.
"The hardest part of transitioning was kind of being the first generation of my family to go to a public school," said Benjamin Miller. "So I couldn't ask my parents for advice. I had to figure out a lot of it on my own."
Miller and his cousin, Ella Yoder, left the Amish community when they were very young. It's a decision their families made to give them a better education. Miller says switching to common English from Pennsylvania Dutch was fairly easy -- he learned by watching television.
The quick study is now the salutatorian of his class with plans to study aeronautical engineering at The Ohio State University. Yoder says she will purse a degree in nursing at North Central State College this fall.
Despite so much success, Yoder says she often wonders what her grandparents, who are Amish, would think about her plans for the future.
"I think that no matter all of the troubles that have been in my family with us leaving the Amish, I think they would still be very proud of us as their grandchildren," said Yoder.
Outside the school, Miller and Yoder's mothers greeted them with a smile.
"I'm very proud of you and everything you have accomplished," said Ella's mother, Lisa, trying not to cry. "It kind of all comes together. All the years, everything we've went through, it comes together here. It's very, it’s been an emotional week leading up to it."
For Tracey Lambdin, this graduation is a full circle moment, his first as an alumnus and principal at the high school. He says he is eager to usher Yoder and Miller to the next phase of their lives.
"To shine not just in our community but in the world beyond the borders of Black River; it's awesome," said Lambdin.
The decision to leave one way of life for another, proving no mistake, Miller hoping to fulfill all his parents dreamed.
"My mom will definitely cry but overall they’re both very proud of me, both us, me and Ella," said Miller. "Graduating tonight just shows they made the right decision to send us to public school and make the sacrifices that they did."