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“This is her last life accomplishment,” Family upset after school rejects graduation request

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SENECA, S.C. (WHNS) – Sierra Sims was well-known among her classmates at West Oak High School.

Sims was a star basketball player at the school, was active in school plays, tutored special education students and was involved in the school chorus.

“I can just go on and on. There’s so many things. What didn’t she do?” Valerie Hembree, Sierra’s aunt, told WHNS.

Through it all, Sierra maintained a 3.8 GPA.

Tragically, Sierra’s life was cut short.

“It’s like it was just yesterday that it happened,” Hembree said.

Just three months before graduation, Sierra collapsed at school and passed away from a blood clot that traveled to her lungs.

“Everybody misses her,” she said.

Now, her family is asking the school to give Sierra the same recognition as all the other graduates during commencement.

“We would like her name to be mentioned during the diploma call out where me or my sister, or her best friend English, to receive the diploma,” said Hembree. “She deserves that.”

However, the school planned to honor Sierra during the welcoming part of the ceremony, but exclude her name from the diploma roll call.

The family received this response from West Oak High School Principal Kurt Kreuzberger.

“I plan on mentioning Sierra during the graduation welcome. This is my time to congratulate and say a few words to the graduates. I know this is a very difficult time for you and your family. We will not be calling Sierra’s name during the graduation as we give out diplomas. I will be very proud to give you Sierra’s diploma after the ceremony either on the stage or in the school.”

“We’re heartbroken because this is her last life accomplishment. We want her name called out to receive her diploma, that’s all we’re asking,” Hembree said. “We don’t want it during the welcome. We want it to actually be like she’s there.”

School superintendent Michael Thorsland said exact details are still being worked out, but that Sierra will be honored at the ceremony one way or another.

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