INTERNATIONAL.- The senior class from the Florida high school where a gunman killed 17 people in February received diplomas Sunday and heard from surprise commencement speaker Jimmy Fallon, who urged graduates to move forward and “don’t let anything stop you”.
Four families were to receive diplomas on behalf of loved ones who were slain in the attack that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control. Principal Ty Thompson underscored the honors for the dead students in a tweet. “Remember those not with us, and celebrate all the successes the Class of 2018 has brought to the community and the world!” Thompson tweeted.
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The “Tonight Show” host offered similar praise, saying, “You are not just the future — you are the present. Keep changing the world. Keep making us proud.” In a video of his address, 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. 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. The school planned to present diplomas to the families of Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup.