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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: 153270

Reported Deaths: 3807
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
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