Kid's high school won't let him walk with his class at graduation because being cancer patient messed up his education.
Stephen Dwyer survived leukemia, but was unable to overcome his pedantic high school administration. Dwyer, his year's class president, spent what should have been his high school graduation watching from the stands because, as Teen Vogue reported, he was 2.5 credits shy of receiving a diploma. Instead, Dwyer gets to walk next year at his Arizona school, with a bunch of kids he doesn't know.
The reason behind the kerfluffle is that during his junior year, Dwyer underwent intensive treatment for leukemia, and subsequently was too preoccupied with his fighting for his life to sit in algebra class. Despite attending no classes at his Arizona high school, Dwyer was still elected senior class president. The kid is well-liked as well as eloquent and hardworking, as this post shared on his Facebook page shows.
Please take a minute to read and share Stephens words......
After a number of conversations with my principal, the superintendent and even members of the school board, my request to my high school that I be a part of graduation this year with my class was denied. I am just 2.5 credits short of meeting the requirements to graduate from Dobson High School. Since I passed the state exams I will easily graduate in December of 2016. As I have no interest in walking with the class of 2017 (they are not my peers and I will be a semester removed from high school at that point). I did not fail any classes nor get suspended for doing something stupid. I had to withdraw from school my entire junior year to receive a life-saving bone marrow transplant (BMT) to treat my high-risk leukemia.
Withdrawing from school for the 2014-2015 school year was not a choice that my family and I made. That was a protocol all BMT patients had to follow during this type of treatment. I had to be in isolation after I received my transplant because my immune system was non-existent; it was just at the beginning of growing again.
I received twelve treatments of chemotherapy and six treatments of radiation in preparation for the transplant. Those caused lingering effects along with: a regiment of over 30 different medications over the span of a year; low blood counts because my new bone marrow was unable to make the normal amount of blood cells. I was more tired than I had ever imagined. From June 2014 until February 2015, I felt too exhausted and sick from different treatments to even think about doing any schoolwork. I slowly started to recover and was able to complete three different online courses between February 2015 and the beginning of the ’15-16 school year.
In April 2015, I was elected Student Body President even though I was not even taking any current classes at my school. With perseverance and by the grace of God, I was able to return to school at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, three months before my doctors had originally anticipated me being back. I achieved a 4.2 GPA my first semester back and improved my class rank to 152nd out of 558 students even though I was short a few credits. Recovery slowly continued: I was a part of the varsity swim team again in 2015 after being back in the water only a couple months; I spent all year as President and as a member of the National Honor Society. To push myself a bit harder, I added an “A-hour” class (before first period) to my spring schedule which required sacrificing some extra rest.
I’m very proud of the way I was able to return back to this environment and do the things I was able to do. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to assimilate back into the high school environment after being in isolation for as long as I was. The physical aspect is obviously very difficult but the mental and social aspects are just as challenging. Because of the transplant, I am more susceptible to getting sick and--trust me--I missed a fair share of school for this reason. This school year has been the most difficult year of my life besides the year that I was actually hospitalized with this disease.
The reason I am writing about all of this is not because I want people to feel bad for me or out of spite for my high school. I write this because I believe what is happening to me (being excluded from the graduation ceremony) and other students like me is wrong. Students like me who had to suffer due to no faults of their own are lumped in the same category as those who failed classes or got suspended for doing something stupid. It makes us feel like we are being punished for something we had absolutely no control over whatsoever.
Students who are put in situations like mine are stranded on an island away from all the other normal teenagers. We are drawn away from all the great things that make high school enjoyable. We are in isolation physically and emotionally. One week we’re in the hospital. The next we are just too tired or self-conscious to go to the dance, the game or the party. We miss out on so much and have no choice but to sit at home and observe on social media. The fact that I am not allowed to walk with my class is again putting me on that island.
The “compromise” that Dobson High School and Mesa Public schools dictated was that I could lead the Class of 2016—my classmates—out at the beginning of the ceremony in my normal clothes, then leave them and go to the stands to watch graduation from there. I’m hoping they allow me to take pictures in my cap and gown after the ceremony.
In their eyes it is unacceptable for them to let a kid like me feel normal once again, to be in the same uniform as all his friends who were there with him when he went through this hard journey. I never asked to receive a diploma and am even okay with not walking across that stage or having my name called. I just want to be a part of the ceremony as one of my peers would be. I want to sit on the field in cap and gown, walk in the same line and throw my cap in the air as we all celebrate what we have accomplished. Most people I speak to believe I’ve accomplished far more than what is required to graduate.
I believe the reason that I get so upset and have a hard time letting this go is because the people who work for schools such as principals, superintendents, and even school board members are in this field to do what is best for each student. But in this case it seems to me that they are just looking to do what is best for them. I understand the concern of setting a certain precedent for kids who failed to meet the graduation requirements, but I believe people like me have a special circumstance and don’t deserve to feel like they are being punished. It is hard for me to understand why some people do not look forward to doing such great things for students in these situations because if they were to have let me be with my peers, it would truly “make” this school year for me. I could really use that. I lost a lot of high school memories already and now I’m losing the final one.
One thing I have learned through all of this is that everything happens for a reason and it is God’s plan. I realize that writing this is probably not going to do anything to help my case but I hope that in the future I can help somebody who is going through the same thing I did.
If any principal, superintendent or board member reads this, please make the right call in the future and let the kid walk.