Joaquin Oliver was one of 17 students and faculty killed at the massacre in a Parkland, Florida high school on February 14
The mother of a student killed in the Parkland massacre in February wore a shirt that read ‘This should be my son’ as she accepted his posthumous diploma at the solemn graduation ceremony for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday.
Patricia Oliver, the mother of Joaquin Oliver, triumphantly raised the diploma on stage as her husband, Manuel Oliver, took a photograph from the front row at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, Local10.com reported.
Joaquin is one of three seniors who received posthumous diplomas on Sunday.
His classmates Nicholas Dworet, Meadow Pollack, and Carmen Schentrup also were honored by the school.
Graduate Chris Grady said their families received standing ovations when they walked on stage, with Oliver’s mom wearing a T-shirt that read, ‘This should be my son.’
The students who received posthumous diplomas were four of the 17 students and faculty who were killed during the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The parents of Joaquin Oliver, one of the students slain in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in February, walk on stage during graduation to accept his diploma.https://t.co/TW6fykfwrg pic.twitter.com/gd86yEKPtN
— ABC News (@ABC) June 3, 2018
Joaquin’s mother, Patricia, went on stage during the graduation ceremony for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and accepted her son’s posthumous diploma. She wore a shirt that read: ‘This should be my son’
Patricia triumphantly raised her son’s diploma during the ceremony at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on Sunday
Her husband, Manuel Oliver, is seen in the black shirt standing in the front row
Joaquin (seen far left with his parents), 17, was known by his nickname ‘Guac’, short for ‘guacamole,’ because many could not pronounce his first name
During the graduation ceremony on Sunday, Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC’s Tonight Show, was a surprise guest speaker.
Joaquin, 17, was known by his nickname ‘Guac’, short for ‘guacamole,’ because many could not pronounce his first name.
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‘My friend will literally never get to say “I graduated high school”,’ said Tyra Hemans, who said she had been friends with Joaquin since they were freshmen.
The 19-year-old said she last saw her friend at school on the day of the shooting.
‘It was just a brief “Happy Valentine’s”,’ she said.
‘He was with his girlfriend and I was just like “Oh my God, you guys are so cute”.’
She added, ‘He’s just a goofball. He’s the only kid you’d know that would dye his hair bleach-blond, walk around school, put some tiger stripes in and just be unique. He was a unique soul.’
Manuel and Patricia Oliver (above) founded a nonprofit in honor of their slain son that works to end gun violence in America
The parents, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, gave an interview to ABC’s Nightline on Sunday.
Four months after the tragedy, they are still struggling to come to grips with the loss.
‘You have no idea … what it feels to get back home and not have your son here,’ Manuel Oliver said, choking up.
‘And not having anybody to say “Hi!” to.
‘It’s an empty space. And it’s sad. And you cry a lot. And you don’t sleep well. And you try to fight for an answer that is not there yet.’
The Olivers are the founders of a nonprofit organization, Change the Ref, which seeks to mobilize young Americans to combat gun violence.
‘This is not about us. At some point, you find yourself in a situation that is not anymore about yourself,’ Manuel Oliver said.
He said he is now painting murals inspired by his son in order to demand change in the nation’s gun laws.
‘I’ve been painting my whole life,’ he said.
‘Joaquin is right there with me painting. I became a tool that Joaquin can use to still have a voice. A very loud voice, a very specific voice, a very Joaquin voice. The way that these walls are painted and treated in that graffiti, street art style, that is totally my son.
‘It’s not me being an artist; it’s Joaquin being an activist. That’s exactly what the walls are,’ he added.
The goal of the campaign is to reduce the political power of the National Rifle Association, a lobby that advocates on behalf of gun manufacturers.
‘That is going to be a long, hard fight but we are committed to that,’ Patricia told Nightline.
‘I feel that he’s there for us, with us,’ she said of her son.
‘He shows up in a different way.’
An unidentified student holds his cap after his graduation from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Sunrise
Shannon Recor reacts as she speaks with the media after her graduation
Shannon Recor (center) walks with her father David after the ceremony at BB&T Center
Paul Evens Placius displays his diploma after his graduation from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
A student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shares a moment with a relative after the ceremony
Graduates are seen after the ceremony, which was a solemn occasion that remembered the victims of the massacre
Fourteen students and three staff members died in the Feb. 14 attack in Parkland
In a video of his address on Sunday, Fallon joked that the students ‘won’t be classmates any more. You’ll be adults who will Facebook search each other at 2 in the morning for the next 10 years.’
Turning more serious, he said: ‘First thing is this: When something feels hard, remember that it gets better. Choose to move forward. Don’t let anything stop you.’
He thanked them for their bravery and activism.
Graduate Shannon Recor said afterward that Fallon ‘made us laugh and cry’ with his speech.
‘He brought a positive energy – I’m glad he came,’ Recor said.
The private ceremony for the nearly 800 members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School class of 2018 was 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. Reporters were not permitted inside the arena.
Fourteen students and three staff members died in the Feb. 14 attack in Parkland.
Former student Nikolas Cruz is charged with their deaths and the wounding of 17 other people. Attorneys for the 19-year-old have said he will plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
He said graduates Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who have become prominent in the “March for Our Lives” gun control movement, got a mixed response as their names were announced. Gonzalez got cheers, he said, while Hogg got a mixture of cheers and boos.
‘I felt bad for him,’ Grady said. Otherwise, he said, ‘it was a normal graduation’ other than Fallon’s speech – ‘That was cool.’
Pollack’s brother, boyfriend and cousins were to accept her diploma. Her brother, Hunter Pollack, aired his feelings on Twitter.
Jimmy Fallon (second from left) made a surprise guest appearance and gave a speech to the graduating class
‘Today is the day my sister has been waiting for. Graduation where she would’ve been getting her diploma and be on her way to attend college. This is a sad day, as I will be walking stage to get her diploma for her,’ he said.
Her father, Andrew Pollack, said he was too emotionally spent to attend the ceremony.
He has been an outspoken critic of school and law enforcement officials, saying they failed to protect his daughter and the others, but that’s not why he’s staying away.
‘It has nothing to do with them,’ Pollack told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. ‘I’ve just been dead inside since Feb. 14.’
Instead, he was headed to central Florida, where this week he will address the armed guards one district has hired for its schools.
April Schentrup, mother of Carmen Schentrup, posted a photo of her daughter wearing her graduation gown and cap, the Sun Sentinel reported .
‘For me, it is too painful to celebrate w/o Carmen,’ she said in an online post.
‘But I am proud of Carmen’s friends & classmates on their accomplishments. They’ve overcome so much. I know they will cont to make positive changes.’
As families arrived for the ceremony, gunshots from a nearby public shooting range could be heard echoing over the parking lot.
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