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POMONA, Calif. – Mich Hamlin grew up homeless, sleeping behind dumpsters with his drug-addicted parents in California. Now he is celebrating after graduating from college.

According to KNBC, Hamlin was able to get a college degree with the help of a program called Renaissance Scholars, which helps foster kids graduate college.

The now 23-year-old explained that he spent years living in the shadows with his parents. His mom, dad and younger brother slept wherever they could find shelter, often behind dumpsters and in a nearby park.

When he was 13 years old, Hamlin and his brother were put into foster care. A few months later, he learned his mom died of liver disease and dad moved away, abandoning them.

“It was the first time I’ve ever felt cold inside, like my heart sunk,” Hamlin told KNBC.

Though his life was off to a difficult start, Hamlin persevered and eventually graduated high school and  now college.

Hamlin says he knows his mom would be proud of him. He has just one photo of her – a mug shot – on his cell phone.

“There’s no way, given all these barriers and hurdles and obstacles my brothers and I faced, that the day we are successful means nothing. It means something to her,” he said.