Ashdown, AR eighth graders honor lost classmate at graduation - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Ashdown, AR eighth graders honor lost classmate at graduation

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ASHDOWN, AR (KSLA) -

Graduation day is a time for joy and excitement, but for one Southwest Arkansas school, today's eighth grade commencement was bittersweet.

The leaving eighth graders at Ashdown Junior High School had 108 students minus one - Coleman Pearson, who died this school year from Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

"It has been hard, it is the hardest thing I've ever done," said Coleman's mother Joanna Pearson. "It has been a struggle every day."

Joanna and other of Coleman's family members were on hand Thursday as Coleman was honored on what would have been his graduation day, as the first annual Coleman Pearson Award was presented.

"We are looking for qualities in a leader," said Ashdown teacher Sarah Attaway. "Coleman, who this is in honor of, was a leader in his classroom."

The first recipient was Coleman's close friend Grace Gwin.

"I am overwhelmed and I am really glad that I got it but even if I didn't I would be proud to anybody else who got it too," Gwin said.

"It means a lot to us," she said. "We loved Coleman and we know he loved us."

There was much to be happy about for the family and friends of the graduating students, but many of them were more focused on the classmate they lost to a devastating disease.

"I felt like he was here and he was watching when they were speaking about him," said Hannah Crow, Coleman's cousin. "I was thinking to myself, 'He is here and he would be proud of me.'"

Coleman was 13 years old when he died.

"I am real honored that everybody cared so much about Coleman and wanted to do something special for him, you know," Joanna said. "I am real proud of him and proud of the young man that he had become."

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