A solemn graduation for Marjory Stoneman Douglas seniors

Nearly four months after the Parkland, Florida, community was ...

Posted: Jun 4, 2018 11:12 AM
Updated: Jun 4, 2018 11:12 AM

Nearly four months after the Parkland, Florida, community was devastated by a deadly school shooting, seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gathered on Sunday to receive their diplomas.

The community anticipated a bittersweet occasion, as students -- dressed in maroon caps and gowns -- and teachers planned to honor the 17 students and faculty killed, including four seniors who would have graduated today.

On Sunday morning, Jeff Foster, the AP Government teacher and grand marshal of the graduation, took to Twitter to let his students know they had his support.

"Today is going to be emotional," he wrote. "Just know that I will always be there for you. I love you."

Ahead of the ceremony at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, MSD teacher Darren Levine told CNN the mood was somber.

"There's definitely a solemn feel mixed with joy, which is weird," Levine said.

During the ceremony, the names of each of the deceased seniors were called, and their family members and close friends came forward to accept their diplomas.

The family of Joaquin Oliver, one of the students killed when a gunman stormed the school on February 14, planned to attend the ceremony. Joaquin's parents received his diploma in his place.

It was an emotional scene, according to Levine. Joaquin's father, Manuel Oliver, ran up the aisle between the graduating students to loud cheers and applause as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Meanwhile, his mother wore a yellow shirt that read, "This should be my son."

Hunter Pollack, brother of victim Meadow Pollack, received his sister's diploma in her stead.

Levine told CNN some attendees shed tears as students, holding hands, sang "Shine," a song written by MSD students in the aftermath of the shooting.

Another teacher told CNN the senior class president, Julia Cordover, gave an emotional speech encouraging classmates to use their votes to change the world.

The ceremony also honored the three faculty members killed in the shooting. Representatives for teacher Scott Beigel, Coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon each accepted a statue of an eagle in their honor.

A surprise guest

School faculty had teased the fact that a special guest would speak at the ceremony, and students and their families were eventually surprised by Jimmy Fallon, host of the "Tonight Show." Like the students, Fallon wore a sash that read, "MSD Strong."

"Today you're graduating from high school," he said, according to videos posted to social media and shared with CNN. "You should feel incredibly proud of yourselves. That doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels -- or your yannys."

Fallon also thanked the class for their "courage" and "bravery."

Some attendees called attention to gun violence

Some of the students decorated the slates of their caps with homages to their lost friends.

One of Meadow's best friends, Carley Ogozaly, decorated her cap with a picture of Meadow and the words, "We are still in this together."

Other students like David Hogg -- who has become a prominent voice in the shooting's aftermath -- used their caps to make a political statement.

He shared a photo of his cap, painted orange, with a price tag that read "$1.05" on Twitter.

"Thanks for the tassel @marcorubio," Hogg wrote.

Student activists wore similar price tags at the March for Our Lives rally in March as a dig at Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the National Rifle Association. The figure is meant to represent how much each student in Florida is worth to Rubio, based on how much money he received from the NRA.

Students weren't the only ones making a statement. Some teachers used orange lipstick to draw strips beneath their eyes as part of a movement called the Lipstick Lobby. The shade of lipstick was meant to draw attention to the issue of gun violence.

The mother of Carmen Schentrup, another senior killed in the shooting, wore orange lipstick in the movement's advertising campaign.

Since the shooting, MSD students have led a national conversation about gun violence through various protests, like school walkouts and the March for Our Lives, which saw massive crowds turn out in Washington and around the country.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6411148
Lamar624686
Lafayette6210119
Washington5342134
Bolivar4804132
Oktibbeha463298
Panola4601107
Pearl River4524146
Marshall4454103
Warren4397121
Pontotoc421172
Monroe4120133
Union411276
Neshoba4033176
Lincoln3972110
Hancock380287
Leflore3500125
Sunflower336490
Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
Alcorn313670
Yazoo311870
Itawamba300877
Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
Tippah289068
Adams288682
Prentiss280360
Marion269680
Leake268673
Wayne262941
Grenada261987
Covington260381
George249448
Newton246963
Winston227881
Tishomingo227567
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208457
Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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