MESA, Ariz. – Stephen Dwyer’s family was devastated when he was diagnosed with leukemia during his junior year at Dobson High School.
The student body president was forced to take time off of school to undergo a bone marrow transplant, along with other cancer treatments.
After fighting the deadly disease, Dwyer returned to the high school to complete his senior year.
He even added an extra class before the start of the school day to help catch up on the lost class time.
However, time was not on his side.
School officials told Dwyer that he would not be able to wear a cap and gown or sit with his classmates during Thursday’s graduation ceremony.
Students and parents pleaded with the school to allow Dwyer to walk with his classmates and make up the credits at a later date.
“Parents are tearful and students are angry about what’s happening. It’s not a good situation,” said Jacob Martinez, a fellow student. “It’s one of the biggest days in a student’s life and to have it taken from him awful.”
However, the school district told KPNX that the exception would violate policy.
“Stephen Dwyer is a strong, courageous young man,” a statement by the district read. “Dobson High School and Mesa Public Schools have worked with the Dwyer family throughout Stephen’s high school career to provide an educational environment that is safe and supportive. Each year, the district has a number of students who due to their personal hardships have not earned the minimum number of credits required to graduate. They are informed about their credits and graduation status throughout their senior year. These students do not participate in a graduation ceremony before successfully earning a diploma. All of them, including Stephen, may participate in other senior year activities and traditions such as prom and senior award ceremonies. As student body president, Stephen will be leading the students onto the field. He chose not to accept several other opportunities offered him to participate in the graduation ceremony in his role as a student leader.”
On Thursday, Dwyer did lead the students onto the field, without a cap and gown, and was escorted into the stands to sit with his family.
He says he feels that he is being punished for something out of his control.
He will graduate in December.