The class of 2015 was missing two classmates Friday, and both were remembered in speeches at graduation.
The class lost Ahmed Mohammed, as a sophomore, to complications of lymphoma. Then the class lost Draven Rodriguez, as a senior, to suicide.
Principal Diane Wilkinson said the class had to persevere in the wake of those deaths.
“We have struggled with the loss of people we cared deeply about,” she said. “The memories of those we loved and lost will not be forgotten, as evidenced by the green ribbons we wear.”
Salutatorian Juliana Montoya said Mohammed was inspiring and brave to come to school while dying of cancer.
“Sharing his art with us, coming knowing he was sharing his last days with us,” she said.
He died before completing his final project in his sophomore drawing class, a self-portrait. The rest of the class finished it together.
After he died, the class of 2015 fundraised to start a scholarship in his name, giving out $500 a year.
Graduation keynote speaker Antonio Civitella, president of Transfinder, announced during graduation that he would ensure the scholarship had enough money to continue through at least 2018.
Then, this year, the class lost a member who was known not just by his classmates but by people around the country.
Rodriguez gained fame in the fall when he posed for a professionally shot yearbook picture with his cat.
The tongue-in-cheek picture, with a laser-lights background, was a social media sensation. Rodriguez was even mentioned on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.”
When he committed suicide during spring break, friends and family were stunned.
Rodriguez’s death was an even harder blow than losing Mohammed, Montoya said in her speech.
“This past year was the hardest. We lost someone again,” she said. “We are partially broken.”