The Philly School District held it’s mid-year graduation ceremony Monday night.
It included a lot of inspiring stories, as well as some tragic.
Over 100 students took the stage to receive their diplomas from the School District of Philadelphia’s mid-year graduation for their alternative education program, according to ABC.
During the ceremony, four chairs remained empty on stage. The chairs each had white roses to honor the students who didn’t make it to graduation. The seats and roses were to honor students who died tragically.
It was reported that three of the students lost their lives to violence, and one lost their life in a car crash. ABC reports that during the ceremony the student’s family members were brought on stage.
The school program accepts at-risk high school students—those likely to drop out or with behavioral problems—and those beyond high school age.
CBS reports that the program, named “The Opportunity Network of Philadelphia,” is facilitated through the city’s Educational Options Program, which allows students to pick up where they left off if they did not complete high school.
The executive director, Dawnlynne Kacer, told ABC, “We allow students of any age to come back into our schools and earn a traditional high school diploma,” adding, “None of that stuff [having dropped out previously] matters. What matters is that these individuals persisted,” Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite said during the ceremony, according to CBS.
The program is open to Philly residents with at least eight class credits and is free and open to adults of any age.
ABC spoke to Don Williams, who received his diploma at 47.
Williams told ABC that, “When I saw my son walk down the aisle and graduate from school, and that gave me the motivation to go back and get my high school diploma.”
Williams also spoke to CBS and added, “That’s my only son, so it put everything in perspective in my life and made me want better, want more.”
Christopher Rogers-Pilla also spoke to ABC about his experience in the program. He told the outlet that he has been blind since his birth and is hoping to pursue a career in music.
“I will be getting my associates degree in sound recording and music tech from the Community College of Philadelphia,” he told ABC.