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Miami School Recognizes Earthquake Survivor's Achievement

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A young Haitian boy who survived the earthquake which claimed the life of his brother, received a special award from his school for his perseverance, determination and achievement.

"No one could tell he has gone through such difficult times. He approaches every day as an opportunity to continue to succeed. The most amazing thing is that he smiles at life without any pity or sorrow," said Al Lawrence, a teacher at Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School in Miami.

Exais Peterson Jean-Baptiste, or just Peterson to his friends, is living the American dream because of his hard work, commitment and a vision for his future.

Peterson was 9-years old when an earthquake struck Port-au-Prince on January 12th, 2010. Badly injured, he spent four days trapped in the rubble until he was dug out by family members.

He was brought to a makeshift hospital where he was attended by Miami Children's Hospital pediatric plastic surgeon Chad Perlyn, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. When Perlyn unwrapped the bandages around the boy's face he found most of Peterson's cheek gone, along with an ear and a big part of his scalp.

Peterson, who underwent 15 reconstructive surgeries to rebuild his cheek and ear, said one day he wants to be a doctor so he can help people like so many people who have helped him.

"I want to be a plastic surgeon like my doctor," said Peterson.

During the assembly, he was presented with the Eneinda Hartner "Young Achiever's Award."

"We're here to teach students, but on occasion we're the ones who lean from him," said Karelissa Gonzalez.

After the earthquake, Peterson took part in a project called "Pictures of Hope."  Through photographs, Peterson was able to capture his hopes and dreams which were featured on cards.  Project creator Linda Solomon traveled from Detroit to honor Peterson and his achievements.

"He captured in a photograph that he hopes to get good grades, he achieved it," said Solomon. "His card is a symbol of who he is, as he said hard work is the key to success."

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