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High school graduation ceremony held in hospice so mother could attend

(R. Quinyon DeBerry)

Most parents dream of seeing their children graduate from high school, but for one Robeson County mother, making it to the ceremony would be impossible.

So Public Schools of Robeson County made it happen, even when many told her she might not see the day.

Jaden Allen and David Burns wanted one person to see them graduate from Purnell Swett High School, their mom and step mom, respectively.

"She’s my best friend she means the whole world to me," Allen said.

"Danielle’s has always been a mother to me and I just look up to her a lot," Burns said.

But Danielle Clark Burns is battling breast cancer at Scotland Regional Hospice and they weren’t sure that would happen.

She first had breast cancer in 2013 and she was in remission for two years. The cancer came back and spread to her bones in 2016.

"That was one of my biggest fears you know with all this going on was just her not being there," Allen said.

"She said I wanted to see my children graduate and I said then that goal may be brought to you," Valeriana Esteves-Jute, Medical Director of Hospice, said.

So, the Public Schools of Robeson County, the hospice center and her friends and family brought graduation to her.

"It showed that it meant a lot to them and they care about their students," Burns said about the school district.

In their caps and gowns the seniors walked into the make shift ceremony in the center to "The Graduation March." The school's principal, Clyde Leviner, spoke and handed the students their diplomas.

They were surrounded by friends and family, Superintendent Dr. Shanita Wooten, and school board members. Dr. Wooten said:

I was honored that they contacted us and we were able to fulfill the mother’s wish to see her children graduate. This is a time for close family and friends to come together and we are honored to be included in such a special time for our students and the Burns’ Family.

"To have her there even through all this going on and be able to see that was very special and it meant a lot," David Burns said.

The graduates said it wouldn’t have been possible without faith.

"Her faith that, laying in the bed and people saying she might not make it and she’s still fighting saying that God can help me and I’m gonna make it. That just shows a lot," he said.

"Somebody can tell you something so devastating, but God can do anything," Allen said.

Both Allen and Burns have plans to go to Robeson Community College. Allen wants to study radiography and become a Interventional Radiologist. Burns said he will get a degree in welding and plumbing with hopes to start his own company one day.

The high school's official graduation ceremony is June 8th.

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