Seniors at Peach County High School turned their tassels and walked into a new chapter in their lives Friday night. For one Peach County mother, Friday’s ceremony was about completing her son's final high school milestone.

The Class of 2017 marched into Anderson Stadium two by two, except in one spot where student Raekwon Smith would have stood.

“There has been tragedy in our midst this year,” Peach County Senior Counselor Sherry Hatchett said. “We lost Raekwon in August. That has just been kind of shadow over our school.”

Instead, a single white balloon swayed amongst a sea of black caps and gowns.

“These are the same students that her son Raekwon were so close to. They were his family,” Hatchett said.

When his name was called, his mother Erica stepped forward to receive his diploma, one that he worked for but didn’t have the chance to collect himself.

“It’s bigger than a piece of paper,” Hatchett said. “This was his life, too. I think she wanted to see him through.”

The crowd of Trojans both on the field and in the stands cheered for him like it was game day in the stadium he used to play in.

“It’s just been an overflow, overwhelming support and love for them and their loss,” Hatchett said.

The single balloon that held his place was released as Peach County's Class of 2017 honored their classmate.
“In a way, it's closure for this particular class of 2017, but it’s also a beginning, a next step,” Hatchett said.

Saturday, May 20 would've been Raekwon's 19th birthday.