GATES MILLS, OHIO (WJW) – A Gates Mills family was moved to tears during an unforgettable surprise for their daughter when teachers at a school in Parma brought graduation home to a student too sick to attend.
18-year-old Jessica Callam was sidelined with a bad case of the flu and forced to miss out on her high school graduation.
“I was very disappointed in myself because I knew this was like a really big moment for me that I really wanted to go,” said Callam.
Her mother Maureen said, “We were all set to go, and this one was especially important to us because she started high school in the COVID years. So, the first two years of high school were very difficult for her.”
Padua Franciscan High School celebrated graduation Thursday. Staff noted Callam’s absence and began to plan how they would bring graduation to her front door in Gates Mills.
“I was on the verge of tears,” said Callam. “I was like shaking. I was happy, excited, like, kind of sad and like just all of these emotions like all running like in my head, but I was just like really happy to see all of them because I didn’t think I was ever going to see them again.”
The family was at their home on Memorial Day when Callam was told to put on her cap and gown to take pictures with her aunt and Uncle who teach at her school. When she stepped outside, she saw not only her relatives but other staff including the school president also in their robes to personally re-create graduation and hand deliver her diploma.
“It was just mind-blowing because that was that’s like the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me and my family,” said Callam. “… I was not alone in this moment, even if I was sick, that didn’t stop them from coming here and giving me my diploma and letting me graduate. So, I was really, really thankful for that.”
Padua President Dave Stec stated, “Graduation is such an important moment for both our families and our students who have worked so hard over the years. It was a real blessing, along with our principal and teachers, to be able to present Jessica her diploma in person and to recreate the graduation moment for her and her family. At Padua Franciscan, one of our strongest values is that of family. It is not just something we say, but rather something that we practice. I truly believe that this gesture brought the love and care that we have for our students fully alive.”
Callam said the level of care and kindness expressed by the school meant so much to her daughter, now able to close the chapter on high school thanks to the cherished memory.
“We’re just so grateful,” said Callam. “It’s such a wonderful school with a wonderful presence and they really care about every single kid and want to make sure that every kid matters.”