Four of the students killed in the Parkland school shooting are set to be honored on Sunday afternoon as their senior class graduates four months after the deadly massacre.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High will present diplomas to the families of Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup.
The ceremony for the 784 members of the Class of 2018 will be held at the BB&T Center where the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers play.
It was moved to the arena to accommodate the expected large crowd.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High will present diplomas to the families of Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup (above) at graduation on Sunday
The Broward School District is keeping the event private.
Only invited guests will be admitted and the media has been barred from inside the arena.
The families of the four slain seniors have been invited to attend but some of their parents say the thought of the graduation ceremony is just too much to handle.
Carmen Schentrup’s parents April and Phil Schentrup told the Sun Sentinel that they will not be attending.
‘I hold (the Broward school district) responsible for my daughter’s death. Why would we go and celebrate with them?’ April said.
Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, attended the senior’s prom last month but will stay away from the graduation.
‘It’s too tough for me,’ Pollack said.
‘I did enough with the prom. It almost killed me.’
Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, attended the senior’s prom last month but will stay away from the graduation because it will be too tough
Diplomas will be presented to the families of the slain students, including Nicholas Dworet (left) and Joaquin Oliver (right)
Joaquin Oliver’s parents Manuel and Patricia will attend and said his mother would make the walk for their son to accept his posthumous diploma if that was an option.
Fourteen students and three staff members died in the February 14 attack carried out by former Stoneman Douglas student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He is charged with their deaths and the wounding of 17.
As they prepare to graduate on Sunday, the Parkland seniors continue to grapple with their grief from the loss of friends and navigate tough decisions about the future.
For many seniors, the months since the shooting have been a blur of funerals, marches, voter-turnout events, television interviews and brushes with celebrities. Amid all that, the seniors also must decide: Should they go to college, enter the military or make a career of the anti-gun activism that’s already shaping Florida policy and driving a national conversation?
Senior Chris Grady, 19, is part the group of students who organized the March for Our Lives in Washington and he’s helping shape the direction of that group’s movement.
Grady, who had planned to join the US Army before the shooting, has since withdrawn his enlistment and will now work for the movement.
The Broward School District is keeping the event private and only invited guests will be admitted. The media has been barred from inside the graduation arena
Senior Chris Grady, 19, who had planned to join the US Army before the shooting, has since withdrawn his enlistment and will now work for the movement
‘I made a commitment to this country that I take seriously, but how can I commit to protect people abroad when they’re getting shot in their classrooms at home?’ Grady said.
For others, a college path is a way to honor their fallen friends by forging on with plans made before the shooting.
Senior Tyra Hemans got her acceptance letter from Pace University in New York the same day her friends were killed. The 19-year-old was close with shooting victims Joaquin Oliver and Meadow Pollack.
While her college acceptance initially made her feel numb, Hemans has decided to go after realizing that many milestones of her life will be tinged with loss.
‘When I go to college, it’s going to be for Guac and Meadow, and when I walk the (graduation) stage, I’m walking for them. When I get my first job, that’s Guac’s first job, that’s Meadow’s first job,’ said Hemans, who wants to study business management and become a sports agent.
Samantha Fuentes, 18, is recovering from bullet wounds in both legs and just had shrapnel removed from behind her right eye. After the shooting, she finished her senior year with online classes instead of returning to school, but she said she still planned to start college in the fall and move out of her mom’s house.
Senior Tyra Hemans got her acceptance letter from Pace University in New York the same day her friends were killed. She has decided to attend while realizing that many of the milestones of her future life will be tinged with sadness
Samantha Fuentes, 18, is recovering from bullet wounds in both legs and just had shrapnel removed from behind her right eye. Fuentes plans to start at Broward College in the fall, on track to eventually transfer to Florida Atlantic University
Her physical wounds are mirrored by internal changes. She stopped working at a chocolate shop because the place felt too small to her, too tight to escape.
‘I’m not afraid of going back to school. I’m not afraid of schools. I don’t think you should be,’ Fuentes said. ‘I think you should be afraid of other things – a lack of change, a lack of progress.’
Her nerves were on display at the March for Our Lives in Washington, when she vomited on stage in the middle of a speech before thousands of people.
David Hogg, one of the most recognizable faces among the student organizers calling for gun reform, is taking a year off before starting college to focus on activism.
Hogg says he struggles to enjoy his limited down time. He feels it’s wasteful because he wants to make a difference. Even prom was a bit of a struggle, he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
‘Oftentimes at these events I kind of feel unproductive,’ he said. ‘I always feel like I have to be doing something and getting something done.’
His family is planning a small dinner to celebrate his graduation.
‘Oftentimes my mom forces me to relax and have a party or whatever,’ he said. ‘I feel like I kind of have a bigger purpose right now… people go to college to change the world and I feel like our entire movement… we’re already doing that.’