Due to coronavirus, graduations and celebrations all around the world are canceled. As such, many schools and universities will host them online. Well, that simply wasn’t good enough for one father! So, he built a stage on his driveway, so his daughter could enjoy a real graduation!
Torrence Burson wanted to celebrate his daughter’s graduation from Xavier University of Louisiana in style, coronavirus or no coronavirus. Unfortunately, not too long ago, his daughter, Gabrielle Pierce, received the devastating email. As it turned out, the school canceled the May 9th graduation. Instead, she would receive an online Zoom graduation, with any other who wanted to attend. “I was really upset because I felt I deserved to walk after all the hard work I went through to try and get my degree,” Pierce said.
Meanwhile, however, Burson had no plan to forgo a graduation! “After seeing my daughter on the couch, after seeing the email she had got that graduation was canceled, it hurt my heart to see her crying and so upset,” he said. “That went on for four or five days to almost a week. I remember going to bed one night and woke up in the middle of the night with the thought that I was going to bring the graduation to the driveway.” Immediately, he started working in his plan. It included a stage in the driveway, a graduation walk, and even decorations! It took him days, but eventually, the stage looked perfect, as you can say. Soon, the time for the graduation came…
More Than Expected
When the weekend of the graduation approached, Burson put his plan into motion. “Early that morning, on Saturday, I told Gabby we were going to have to practice because every graduation has practice,” he said. Of course, Pierce felt more than a little skeptical about the whole thing. She couldn’t believe that the stage would be that impressive. However, her dad completely blew her away!
“I just couldn’t believe that it was so large – I didn’t think that there was going to be a podium or banisters and all of that. It was just amazing to see everyone out there and to see the stage and for everyone to celebrate me,” Pierce remembered. “I was just like, ‘Are you serious all of this is for me?’ This is huge. It was amazing to see how I went from not being so ecstatic and wondering how it was going to go, to being overwhelmed with joy at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, her father surprised her: the practice graduation turned out to be the real deal! More than that, he had invited every family, who all enjoyed the occasion while safely spread out on the driveway. The family pastor, Rev. Eric J. Knowles, also joined the celebration, presenting the speeches.
Full Of Support
As the graduation commenced, neighbors also came out and supported the 23-year-old. “They were pulling out chairs just to sit next to us, but keeping their distance and it was overwhelming at that point. When the national anthem started playing, those sitting down actually stood up, and the veterans saluted,” Burson recalled. Even passers-by and cars driving by stopped as they noticed the ceremony on the street.
Now that Pierce received her diploma for a bachelor’s degree in public health science and celebrated, what are her plans? She wants to join the Army National Guard and earn a master’s degree in epidemiology! Pierce’s dream is to be a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s team.
“Stay strong, follow your heart and follow what you want to do in life because, ultimately, what makes you happy will make your life better, you better, and any person that is a part of your life better. Don’t force anything that you don’t want to do, do it because you want to,” Pierce said in her speech to other graduates.