A devoted Tennessee dad went above and beyond the call of duty in order to host a proper commencement ceremony for his daughter.
After years of working towards her bachelor’s degree in public health science, Gabrielle Pierce was devastated when she learned that she would not be able to walk across a stage to receive her diploma like she had always dreamed of.
Although Pierce graduated from the Xavier University of Louisiana in December, the school only hosts one commencement ceremony every year—so Pierce spent months waiting for her chance to walk.
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When Pierce received an email from the university in mid-March about how their ceremony would be canceled amidst the COVID-19 shutdowns, she told CNN that she had been crying over the news for one week straight.
Pierce wasn’t the only one heartbroken by the cancellation; her father Torrence Burson could hardly bear to see his daughter so sad.
Rather than accept his daughter’s dream as forfeit, however, Burson became determined to host his own commencement ceremony for Pierce at their home in Memphis.
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Over the course of just six weeks, Burson managed to reserve a photographer, stage, and podium without his daughter’s knowledge.
When the big day finally came, Pierce was shocked to find a full-sized stage waiting for her in her front yard. There were 40 people in attendance, all sitting six feet apart with masks on—and her father even played “Pomp and Circumstance” as she walked up to get her diploma.
“Gabrielle never saw anything until she came out to walk,” Burson told CNN. “At that moment, I didn’t have any worries. I was speechless. To see my baby walk across the stage and all her friends, family, neighbors and people that we don’t even know stopped in the street to witness this. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
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Burson’s next-door neighbor Delandrion Todd praised the father for the heartwarming initiative in a series of Facebook photos which have since been shared hundreds of times across social media.
“My next door neighbors daughter couldn’t have her official graduation due to the pandemic so he created one for her!” wrote Todd. “Now that’s a great/proud father for you. He made it happen!”
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