Detroit Class President Shot in Head Surprises Classmates at Graduation

Detroit class president shot in head two months ago stuns friends, classmates.

ByABC News
June 5, 2013, 1:42 PM

June 5, 2013 — -- A Detroit high school senior class president who was shot in the head at a birthday party two months ago stunned his friends and classmates this week when he emerged on stage at their graduation.

On April 6, Balaal Hollings, an honor student, football star and the student council and senior class president at Northwestern High School was shot in the head outside the birthday party of one of his best friends.

"I had missed her dinner, so I promised to make it to the party," Hollings told "After the party, some East Side boy was shooting for no reason. A bullet hit the wall, and then it hit me."

Watch a video of Balaal Hollings' graduation surprise here.

The bullet entered the 18-year-old's temporal lobe. He was hospitalized for two weeks, according to his older sister, Nuballa Hollings, who helped raise him. Their mother died two years ago.

The shooter has not been identified, according to Balaal Hollings.

"He wasn't invited. He just showed up, crashed the party," he said.

After he was released from the hospital, Hollings entered a rehab facility. His sister told that she didn't allow her brother's friends and classmates to visit him while he was working on his recovery.

But Hollings' friends certainly tried, and he spent a fair share of his time in the hospital talking with them.

"My therapist said the best part of therapy is when my phone died," he said.

Doctors wouldn't give him a time frame for his release but said that he wouldn't likely be ready to return home until June 15 -- weeks after Tuesday's graduation ceremony. Hollings had enough credits to graduate, but it didn't look as if he'd be able to collect his diploma at the ceremony and be with his high school class on the last day they would all be assembled together.

But Hollings persisted.

"He advanced way faster than we thought that he would," his sister said. "He was just fighting so hard. He looked up, and it was like, 'Oh my God, it's my brother again!'"

The hospital didn't officially release Hollings until today, but he got the go-ahead to attend Northwestern High School's graduation at the Millennium Center in Southfield, Mich. But he decided to keep it to himself.

"It was kind of hard," he said, "I've got a big mouth. I wanted to say something, but I didn't."

There was a delay at the beginning of Tuesday's ceremony. Students donning caps and gowns looked around the auditorium puzzled. Then suddenly Hollings, wearing a tasseled helmet, emerged on stage to screams, applause and a standing ovation.

"First of all, I want to thank God. It is so good to be alive," he said from the podium. "I got shot in the head, and I am fully rehabilitated.

"I forgot a lot of stuff. I forgot how to walk. I forgot how to talk. I didn't forget how to eat!" he joked.

Hollings said he hadn't written his speech beforehand.

"I just winged it," he told "I talked to them about unity. And the difficulty of graduation, and moving on. That we don't forget about each other."

Nuballa Hollings, who walked him onto stage, appeared breathless.

"I had to keep myself from crying," she said. "It was wonderful. I think his friends are more excited than he was."

Now that he has been fully released from the hospital, Hollings hopes to spend some time with his best friends, likely just hanging out on a front porch and enjoying the summer. He will still be attending outpatient therapy, working on his strength and conditioning.

In January, he plans to study either criminal justice or law at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis. He'll be using the more than $50,000 he has received in academic scholarships.

"I didn't have to wait, but it was a decision that I made," he said.

Tonight he will receive another honor. According to ABC affiliate WXYZ, he'll be throwing out the pitch at tonight's Detroit Tigers game.