A bittersweet story unfolded in Kalamazoo, Mich., where a high school held an early graduation ceremony for a senior who was battling cancer. Yeastie Gates, 17, received a visit from the Kalamazoo Central High School principal and other staff from the school in her hospital room where they presented her with a cap and gown May 14. Gates would die the next day.
She was diagnosed with cancer of the muscles and bones as a toddler, and dealt with several recurring instances of the disease. Despite several surgeries and a pain-filled existence, Gates’ mother says her daughter was focused on becoming a high school graduate.
When it became clear that Gates would not live to attend the school’s commencement ceremony on June 4, the school went into action. Kalamazoo Central Principal Valerie Boggan said that the small graduation celebration held last week would be something she would never forget.
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About 20 of Yeatise’s family members attended the ad hoc graduation ceremony.
“It was her dream to graduate high school, and she did,” Boggan said. “For her family, it wasn’t sad. They were celebrating.
Family, friends and the Kalamazoo Central community are now mourning the death of a young woman described as beautiful, talented, smart and an inspiration to everyone around her.
“She was just amazing,” said Yeatise’s mother, Santasha Gaines.
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.