The Detroit high school senior was student council president, and a football star, but on April 6, his life was abruptly altered when, while attending his friend's birthday, a stranger shot in their direction.
"After the party, some East Side boy was shooting for no reason," Hollings told ABC.com. "A bullet hit the wall, and then it hit me."
His therapists told him the earliest he would be released was June 15, missing his graduation ceremony by two weeks.
But Hollings pushed ahead, and got the approval to attend his graduation Tuesday. He also decided not to tell any of his classmates, instead, surprising them onstage at the ceremony.
Watch the moving video of Hollings as he takes the stage at his graduation, to the cheers and tears of his classmates:
The shooter still hasn't been identified.
"He wasn't invited. He just showed up, crashed the party," Hollings said, but he hasn't let that keep him down.
"First of all, I want to thank God. It is so good to be alive," he said to his classmates 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 plans to study law or criminal justice as Lakeland College in Wisconsin, where is received more than $50,000 in scholarships.
But first, he'll make at least one more public appearance: At the Detroit Tigers game Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, Balaal Hollings will take the mound and throw out the first pitch.
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