NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— His mother was murdered by a stray bullet when he was just a young boy, now this Booker T. Washington High School Valedictorian is showing he was not going to let tragedy stop him from thriving with his education and life goals.

Kolby Daniels was just 7-years old when his mom Shawanna Pierce got caught between gunfire of gang members in a high profile shooting, in which stray bullets killed Pierce and a 5-year old Brianna Allen on Simon Bolivar in Central City back in May of 2012.

“We were outside playing football. We rushed into the house after we heard bullets, and that’s all I remember from that day,” Daniels said.

Now 11-years later, he’s reflecting on how he took losing his mother and turned it into motivation to succeed in her honor.

“My mom meant the world to me. My best friend at the time. She’d always say I was her dude, and I always felt like I was her favorite,” he said.

Kolby’s proving his success. He’s this year’s Booker T. Washington High School Valedictorian. His mom also graduated with honors.

“She graduated at Booker T. Washington, Class of ’96, and she was #3 in her class,” he said.

He went on to say, “I think she’d be extremely proud of me doing what she had done, but a little better, she was #3, now I’m #1.”

Kolby said, “I just wanted to do what she was doing in high school. Do the same thing, be the best person I can be.”

He says the incredible support he got from his family pushed him.

“My family has always been my backbone, supported me with my academic career,” he said.

“I’m very proud of him. It is hard raising boys in this era, in this city. I did my best with them,” Kerry Daniels, Kolby’s dad said.

Other family members, Kolby’s aunts Laura Pierce and Kawanna Daniels-Harris are also very happy for Kolby.

“Could’ve turned a different route, but they chose something positive, be something more in life,” Laura Pierce said.

“Him being number one is an accomplishment for all of us. It makes us all feel we did right by him, right by his mother,” Kawanna Daniels-Harris said.

This Mother’s Day—Kolby says the greatest gift he could give his mom Shawanna is his success.

“All things get better through struggle. It is just really mind blowing that I fulfilled my dreams, being at the top of the class,” Kolby Daniels said.

Kolby will be headed to Texas Southern University in Houston. He will be in the school’s Ocean of Soul Marching Band. At Booker T. Washington High School, he was enrolled in a college credit program where he earned 60 credit hours.