Kindergarten and beyond
One of the great resources at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the opportunity for patients to continue their education directly on campus while receiving treatment. Here's a look at three patients who have graduated from the The St. Jude School Program by Chili’s over the years, and where they are now.
Graduating from kindergarten is a big milestone. At St. Jude, it’s no different. School is a normal part of growing up. For children and teens undergoing treatment, school can offer a familiar and reassuring routine.
So of course patients who attend the The St. Jude School Program by Chili’s celebrate graduations, too.
Jakayla attended St. Jude kindergarten graduation in 2012. Her treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) included chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant (BMT), which was scheduled for the same day as Jakayla’s kindergarten graduation ceremony.
Knowing how important this milestone was, Jakayla’s St. Jude teachers came up with a plan.
On graduation day, while her classmates sat on stage in the St. Jude auditorium, Jakayla joined them via Skype from her hospital room, clad in her tiny white cap and gown. When her name was called, Jakayla happily accepted her diploma from her teacher, who was in the room with her.
“It was such an emotional day,” said Jakayla’s mom, Lisa. “It was important for Jakayla to do each of these things, the transplant and her graduation, and St. Jude made sure she could do both.”
Today, Jakayla is an active seventh grader who visits St. Jude for regular checkups. She’s a smart, funny preteen who loves to sing and dance. “We are so grateful for everything St. Jude has done for Jakayla,” Lisa said.
Izarah became a patient at St. Jude in June 2012 after she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). During treatment, she also participated in the St. Jude school program.
“She was so happy to go to school,” said her mom, Nohelia. “Even though there were times she felt sick, she enjoyed it so much. She liked going on the field trips and going to gym class when she was well enough.”
Izarah graduated in May 2014. It was a family affair. “Her dad, Isaac, is in the United States Army, and she hadn’t seen him for two months,” Nohelia recalled. “She was so excited because he came to her graduation with her sisters, grandfather, aunt and godmother.”
Isaac and Nohelia were overcome with emotion as they watched Izarah reach this important milestone.
“It was such a magical day, every moment we went through leading up to graduation made us feel so fortunate to have been at St. Jude,” Nohelia said. “It was because of St. Jude that Izarah was able to graduate and continue her learning journey.”
Izarah, who is in fifth grade, loves learning and counts math, science and art among her favorite subjects. Outside of school, Izarah plays volleyball and swims.
“St. Jude is more than a hospital where our daughter received specialized cancer treatment,” Isaac said. “We had the worst moments of our lives there, but also some of the best ones. St. Jude is a place where miracles happen every day.”
Josiah became a patient at St. Jude when he was just 6 months old, after being diagnosed with a rare, cancerous brain tumor. He had 16 rounds of chemotherapy and finished treatment in late 2010, but continued to visit St. Jude for physical, speech and occupational therapies.
In 2015, Josiah participated in St. Jude’s kindergarten graduation.
“Seeing our son don a cap and gown for his kindergarten graduation was a real high point in our time at St. Jude,” said Josiah’s dad, Stephen. “To have him stand with his peers, being rewarded, not only for his hard work in learning his letters and numbers, but also being rewarded for his hard work to come through his treatment, was almost overwhelming. It was something our family will not forget, regardless of the other milestones he has reached in the years since.”
Josiah is about to finish third grade. He loves Scouts, spending time with his younger siblings and playing outdoors.
He’s now a part of the St. Jude After Completion of Therapy clinic.
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