When violence canceled their end-of-school ceremonies, the community honored these young graduates

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-13 12:18:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Community-led moving-on celebrations for younger Richmond public school students began Monday for elementary and middle school students. Many of the school-sponsored ceremonies were canceled following last week's deadly shooting after Huguenot High School graduation.

"From the situation that had happened, when we couldn't graduate, I was a little sad. But, when they set this up I got -- I was a little happy," student Aliyh Brown said.

More than 200 students signed up to take part in moving-on ceremonies organized by the Ricky Johnson Foundation.

"Even if it was just one, I was going to make it possible to make it happen," Johnson said. "They worked hard to get where they are today."

Johnson said the celebrations would not have been possible without everyone pitching in to help and contribute.

"It just really warms my heart to know these kids participated in their own moving-on ceremony, they actually played a part, their parents played a part, and the community as a whole played a part in this right here," he said.

Among them, he said, was Anthem Healthkeepers which step up to sponsor and cover the costs of all the events.

"With all the recent tragedy, I thought that this would be something that the kids would actually remember that would be positive," said Anthem Healthkeepers Territory Director Kassandra Hodge.

Complete with décor and fancy dress, students from Carver, Overby-Sheppard, Henderson, and Albert Hill got to walk across the stage and thank those who made it possible.

"I'd like to give a shoutout to my auntie because she's always been there when I needed her," one student said during the ceremony.

"Shoutout to my momma, because she always helped me with my work when I needed help," said another.

Along with receiving a certificate from Johnson, each student's loved one was called up to place a medal around their neck as well.

For the students, it was a welcome end to their school year.

"I felt good, now that I walked across the stage and knowing that I graduated," Henderson Middle School graduate Niveah Minor said.

"Today felt like a big accomplishment," Henderson Middle School graduate Jazmin Richburg said. "It felt like overcoming the biggest step of my life."

"This is something positive for them to remember versus the tragedy," grandparent Robin Richburg shared.

If you would like to come help celebrate the students moving on, there are four more groups of ceremonies taking place:

Tuesday, June 13 at 10 a.m. (student check-in time is 9:30 a.m.)

  • Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School,
  • Lucille M. Brown Middle School,
  • Westover Hills Elementary School.

Tuesday, June 13 at 2:00 p.m.

  • Thomas C. Boushall Middle School,
  • J.H. Blackwell Elementary School,
  • J.L. Francis Elementary School.

Wednesday, June 14 at 10:00am (student check-in time is 9:30 a.m.)

  • Linwood Holton Elementary School,
  • Southampton Elementary School,
  • Barack Obama Elementary School,
  • Veritas School.

Wednesday, June 14 2:00pm (student check-in time is 1:30 p.m.)

  • Broad Rock Elementary School,
  • Bellevue Elementary School,
  • River City Middle School,
  • Richmond Virtual Academy.

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