Cancer patient gets high school diploma the day before she dies

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Yeastie Gates

A cancer-stricken high school senior in Michigan was able to achieve her dream of graduating high school in a special ceremony, just one day before she died.

Kalamazoo Central High School Principal Valerie Boggan and a host of other school officials were at the hospital bed to award Yeatise Gaines with a cap, gown and certificate of completion on May 14, ahead of the scheduled June 4 commencement.

More than 20 family members along with school administrators and teachers gathered around Yeatise’s hospital bed in a tear-jerking, poignant ceremony. Gates passed away the next day.

“It was always something she wanted to do,” Yeatise’s mother Santasha Gaines told the Detroit Free Press. “If she made it this far she didn’t want to leave this earth without the diploma in her hands.”

Santasha Gaines says her daughter dreamed of studying oncology in college so she could help children with cancer, just like herself.

“It was her dream to graduate high school, and she did,” Boggan said. “For her family, it wasn’t sad. They were celebrating.”

Yeatise has been battling cancer since she was just 18 months old. She had been on crutches for four years, had endured 10 surgeries and suffered severe back pains. It was the radiation treatment that sent her cancer into remission, but it came with a cost. Gaines’ weakened her lungs from the procedures ultimately was too much to overcome.

The teen was asked to be taken out of school for the third time after Thanksgiving, but the dedicated student continued her studies through home schooling.

The school plans to honor Gates, and Kalamazoo Central’s long distance relay team will dedicate fundraising proceeds at the Relay for Life of Kalamazoo County event in the girl’s memory.

Gates will be laid to rest in Kalamazoo this weekend.

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