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Graduation Moments

This past Friday, we celebrated nearly 1,000 graduates from our three high schools. Graduation is full of special milestone moments and we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss a single one.

At Northwestern High School's graduation, Natalie Bentos-Pereira walked across the stage just like the rest of her classmates. However, for Natalie, it was a powerful moment. When she was in fifth grade, Natalie had a spinal injury that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Her mother says Natalie's doctor told her she’d never walk again. However, after working incredibly hard in physical therapy, Natalie was able to literally walk across the graduation stage and receive her diploma.

“We are just proud. Natalie is reserved and shy. It was nice to see her want to do this. We’re proud of how far she has come,” Margaret Bentos-Pereira, her mother, said. 

While Rock Hill High’s graduation technically ended on Friday night, our administrators “extended” it to Monday. Exceptional Education student Daniel Steelman has a rare chromosome disorder called Kleefstra Syndrome. He is one of about 1,000 in the world that has been diagnosed with it and sensory sensitivity kept him from attending his graduation ceremony. So, we brought the celebration to him. Surrounded by our administrators, school board members, teachers, and his family, we were able to hand Daniel his diploma in a ceremony created just for him.

“Wow. I didn’t even know they provided this, but it means so much to him. This is so sweet,” Amber Kamke, his mother, said.

This year, our Catawba students also had a special moment. For the first time, Catawba Nation students were able to celebrate their accomplishments with official regalia during our ceremonies.

Each student was permitted to have an eagle feather or beadwork adorn their tassel during graduation. Many Tribal Nations recognize achievements with an eagle feather. Wearing the eagle feather symbolizes the amazing work our Native American students have achieved. For the first time, our Catawba Nation students wore their eagle feathers with pride on their graduation caps. We are incredibly grateful to be a part of this honorable tradition.

graduation feather photo