WOOSTER, Ohio (WJW) – A high school student who wasn’t supposed to live, let alone walk or talk again, battled back from the brink of death twice and graduated Friday night.

Cristian Mendoza was just starting his sophomore year at Triway High School in Wooster when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the base of his skull and cerebellum.

One day he was at work and the next day he woke up at Akron Children’s Hospital.

“I was in a hospital bed like, ‘wait, what is going on?’ People were telling me, ‘you almost died,’ so I was like, ‘oh, that ain’t good,’” said Cristian.

He may have lost time, but not his sense of humor despite undergoing more than 20 surgeries over a two-year period and extensive physical therapy.

After the tumor was removed, he developed Posterior Fossa Syndrome and had to relearn everything.

“He basically had to reconnect his brain and his body,” said Heather Garnes, Cristian’s mother. “He has to relearn how to walk, how to talk, how to eat, how to move his arms.”

Garnes’ eyes swell with tears when she thinks of the journey, how she almost lost Cristian and never thought she’d see this day.

“No I didn’t,” she said. “He’s an amazing kid, an amazing kid and he’s done it with humor and sarcasm and kindness.”

At the hospital, Crisitian was notorious for instigating silly string battles with his neurosurgeon and bringing glitter bombs.

He’s so loved that members of his care team attended the graduation ceremony, including an ICU nurse and his occupational therapist, who couldn’t wait to see him walk across the stage.

“Every time, no matter what’s thrown at him, he shows up and does it with humor and finds a way to find his independence again,” said Brittany Holmes, Akron Children’s Hospital O.T. 

She admits Cristian’s recovery was grueling and included months hospitalized and at least six hours a day of physical therapy and speech therapy.

But through it all, he maintained his school work and as he walked over to get his diploma, the crowd cheered and many cried, but Cristian took it all in stride.

“I didn’t really do anything. I just hung in there,” said Cristian.

The family says they are especially grateful to Akron Children’s Hospital and Triway High School, especially his principal Scott Wharton for all of their help and support.

“When the world falls out, there are good people out there,” said Garnes.

Along with his diploma, Cristian received the Courage Award Friday.

The district also announced that due to his perseverance and positive attitude, they’d be naming a scholarship after him next.

As for Cristian, he says he can’t wait to be able to go to the gym every day and grow even stronger, return to work and some day raise a family of his own.