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Dooly Co. graduation brought to student in ICU

Dooly Co. graduation brought to student in ICU
Published: May. 28, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT|Updated: May. 28, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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VIENNA, Ga. (WALB) - While graduations are still happening throughout South Georgia, one graduation was brought directly to a student who couldn’t attend her high school graduation because of an ongoing illness.

Jai’La Mathis, Dooly County high school graduate, was surprised to see teachers, students and staff decked out in graduation attire at the hospital she had been staying at, all to celebrate one accomplishment, her graduation.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said.

Mathis said she was very emotional during the special graduation ceremony she received.
Mathis said she was very emotional during the special graduation ceremony she received.(Jerry Sanders)

Mathis has been going to school virtually for two years now because of ongoing health issues.

She planned to attend her high school graduation virtually on May 21 but unexpectedly had to be admitted to the hospital. She found out she had to undergo her 5th surgery as doctors discovered a cyst in her back that spread to her bloodstream.

That’s when Jerry Sanders, Dooly County High School principal, decided to act fast and put together a special graduation ceremony on the day Mathis was supposed to walk across the stage.

Jerry Sanders, Dooly County High School principal, said he rushed over to the hospital right...
Jerry Sanders, Dooly County High School principal, said he rushed over to the hospital right after the school's graduation to host the special ceremony.(WALB)

“I wanted to do this because I want her to have this special moment just like every other student had had,” he said. “My heart is to serve and to make sure people are accommodated, but I felt that day was the epitome of serving leadership. We can really serve the students, that’s our job.”

Now with a high school diploma and high spirits, Mathis is back at home recovering and ready for the next phase in her life. She said she plans to go on to an online college where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Really, I put my faith in God. I’m just thankful,” she said.

Sanders had this to say to Mathis as a final message.

“So, I want you to make stuff happen regardless of what your health situation is. We know you got a lot of health issues but still fight. Fight for what you want. Make things happen in your future,” he said.

Sanders also said he hopes his custom graduation ceremony inspires other educators to build a connection with their students so it can impact their lives as well.

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