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Fleming graduation goes ahead, one day after shooting that injured student

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:58 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - One day after a teenager was shot outside William Fleming High School’s graduation practice, hundreds of students received their diplomas. The graduation ceremony, planned for the Berglund Center, moved ahead as scheduled, with heightened security.

Roanoke City police and sheriff’s deputies were visible throughout the event. The thousands of guests who attended also had to pass through metal detectors on their way into the building.

“We will not let the events of yesterday define us,” said Superintendent Verletta White during her speech to the class of 2021.

White touched on Wednesday’s violence only briefly, instead keeping the focus on students.

“When you take a look at what this is, when we look at this community atmosphere, this community of excellence, this is who we are,” she said.

White and student speakers were quick to highlight what this graduating class has overcome.

“Junior and senior years have been especially challenging, but we did it. Congratulations class of 2021!” said valedictorian Uyen Tran.

Thousands of family members filled the stands Thursday, many traveling from out of state.

“Four-and-a-half, five-hour drive with the kids,” said Charlie Palmer, who drove down with his family from Pennsylvania to see his niece walk across the stage.

The Palmer family said they felt “absolutely safe.”

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