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Mom accepts diploma in son’s place after he dies in car crash

Duque Law - Personal Injury Lawyers

Just days after her son was tragically killed in a car accident following his high school prom, Kaye Jackson decided to walk in his place at his high school graduation.

High school football star Aaron Dunigan was riding in the passenger seat of a car with two other teens on their way home from an after-prom party on May 16. The teens veered into oncoming traffic and collided with another car, killing both Dunigan and the 56-year-old driver of the other vehicle. A third passenger in the backseat with the teens was injured.

“I wanted him to go and enjoy his night,” Jackson told ABC News. “Not to say I wasn’t worried about him, I always worry about him. I wanted him to enjoy the best he could, that’s normal right? He said, ‘Mama, I love you and I’ll see you later.'”

“I said, ‘I love you too’ and that was it,” Jackson said.

Once Thornton Fractional North High School principal Dwayne Evans heard of the devastating news, he spoke with Jackson about her wishes to accept Dunigan’s diploma on her behalf at the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday.

“She was willing to come in and participate,” Evans told ABC News. “She thought that was the least she could do for her son’s graduation. It was joyful and painful,” he added.

“The crowd cheered, gave a standing ovation, and we presented her with a diploma that we put together with his picture on it,” Evans said. “She was very proud in the moment. She loved him and showed the love for her son even though he was not there.”

A photo from the graduation shows an emotional Jackson wearing a cap and gown as she clutches her son’s diploma. Many have spoken in awe of the mother’s strength in her time of trouble.

“As a parent, I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” Rich Watson, Dunigan’s football coach, told ABC News. “She’s obviously suffering, but to take joy in Aaron’s accomplishment of graduating, I mean she’s been amazingly strong.”

Jackson said her son, who was planning to play football at Southern Illinois University, left a positive mark on all who knew him.

“Everyone who met him was impacted and loved him instantly,” Jackson said. “He was an amazing, amazing person.”

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