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Surprise parade, iPad bring Richmond valedictorian to tears: ‘I am very grateful’

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Posted at 1:57 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 17:03:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Thomas Jefferson High School student not only finished at the top of her graduating class, Amia Graham finished at the top of the entire district with a 4.98 grade point average.

CBS 6 investigative reporter Laura French surprised the valedictorian with a knock on her door bringing with her a surprise visit from family, friends, teachers and school administrators, including Graham’s principal and Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools Jason Kamras.

“Hi, is your name Mia” asked French. “Yes,” replied, Graham. “The one and only Mia who got a 4.98 at Thomas Jefferson High School?” “Yes,” replied, Graham. “I heard that you are not only valedictorian of your high school, but the top-ranked student of all of Richmond city schools,” said French.

“I’m certain graduation is not what you thought it was going to be right?” “No,” Graham replied. “Well, I wasn’t okay with that,” said French.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham will not experience the traditional commencement ceremony she was looking forward to where she would have stood before her graduating class as valedictorian and given a speech.

Instead, the week of June 22, virtual and small in-person ceremonies will be held. Three members of a graduate’s family will be allowed to watch them walk across a stage at their school and receive their diploma.

“I wanted to find a senior who was deserving of a special present so I wanted to bring graduation to you and give you something for your studies at the University of Virginia in your profession of nursing,” French explained to Graham. “I hear you’re going to need something for your clinicals right?”

French handed Graham a backpack that Graham’s mother helped French pick out.

“A backpack would not be complete without something in it, so this is a gift from CBS 6 all we ask from you is to maybe someday pay it forward,” said French.

Graham pulled out an IPad.

“I will use it for everything! I am very, very grateful, thank you!” said Graham. “I’m really shocked!”

French then walked Graham to the street where Graham was surprised with a parade of vehicles filled with friends and family and well wishes. Graham was brought to tears.

“I knew they loved me, but it really feels good,” said Graham. “I’m really, really grateful it feels good to know that all of these people love and support me.”

Graham received $500,000 in scholarship offers from universities and colleges across the country. However, her school of choice was the University of Virginia. She did receive a partial scholarship from U.Va. She plans on becoming a nurse practitioner in women's health.