When Madyson Daniels crossed the stage Friday and turned her tassel to the right, all the graduate could think about was saying, “Mama, I made it.”
Daniels, 18, lost her mother three years ago to cervical cancer. Now the Kiln teen is battling cancer herself — she was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma about a month ago.
Daniels has the same cancer that took the life of classmate Glenda Rockwell, who would have graduated from Hancock High School last year.
When asked about graduation, Daniels said, “It means a lot to me, but I wish my mom could be here.”
Daniels, who spent the moments before graduation taking selfies with her friends and hugging teachers, just finished her first round of chemotherapy. She’ll undergo four more rounds of chemo in the next five months.
But she isn’t letting cancer stop her. She plans to attend Pearl River Community College in the fall.
“I saw what chemo did to her,” she said of her mom. “I don’t want to go down like that.”
Hundreds of students walked across the football field at Brett Favre Stadium on Friday and received their high school diplomas.
Some, such as valedictorian Marie Konopacki, plan to leave Mississippi to pursue their dreams. Konopacki will join her friend and former Hancock High classmate, Trevor Ladner, at Harvard University.
Others are taking their time to figure out what to do next.
Cindy Liu of Diamondhead said she was sort of lost before she got to high school, but good friends and an English teacher helped her find her way.
“High school was four years of growth for me,” she said. “People who you meet in high school will never judge you for who you choose to be.”
English teacher Amanda Lovelace Pidgeon helped Liu realize she has a support system at Hancock High.
“She showed me you don’t have to be alone. She’s the one who helped me understand other people.”
The seniors at Hancock High always give Superintendent Alan Dedeaux a little something special when he hands each their diploma — this year, it’s pocket change.
The money will be put in the Christian Blue Jordan scholarship fund.
Hancock High School
Valedictorian: Marie Konopacki, daughter of Mark and Ivette Konopacki of Diamondhead
Salutatorian: Kyla Asher, daughter of Tammy and Brandy Asher of Diamondhead
Class size: 281
Principal: Tara Ladner
Interesting note: Each year, one student at HHS wears a white gown instead of a blue gown. The white gown “represents the student’s perseverance and courage to overcome great obstacles to achieve the goal of graduating.” Ashton Dedeaux was the recipient of the special gown this year.