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St. Jude School Program celebrates annual high school commencement

By Kerry Goff

St. Jude video

Fifteen high school seniors were honored recently as the St. Jude School Program celebrated its annual high school commencement.

The students completed high school this year while undergoing treatment and managing the ongoing pandemic. Each graduate received a unique St. Jude class ring, hats tassels and other gifts.

"Graduating high school is a unique milestone because the finish line becomes the starting line," said James R. Downing, MD, St. Jude president and chief executive officer. "Everything you've learned and experienced up to today has made you into the special person you are, and we can't wait to see what is next for you."

St. Jude high school teacher Mandy Little explained, "It is truly remarkable to achieve this milestone while undergoing treatment and even more while going through the pandemic."

Little has been a teacher at St. Jude for 14 years. She was influenced by her own high school senior English teacher and wanted to make a difference in others' lives in the same manner. She explained how impressed she is with the students she teaches and how much they have accomplished despite obstacles.

High school teacher Nicole Byford has been with St. Jude for 7 years. She also explained how proud everyone is of the graduates' achievements, especially with the added stress of the pandemic.

"Cancer hasn't slowed our students down, so how could the pandemic slow us down?" Byford said. "It's given us a way to identify with their own struggles in some ways."

In celebration of graduation, principal Randy Thompson shared a favorite quote: "You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." He continued by saying that students have demonstrated all three with amazing courage, superhero strength and a true love of learning as they complete this important achievement.

"Parents, grandparents, families, teachers and team members—we want to send a giant thank you for supporting them along the way," he said.

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