SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - It’s not exactly the way Magnolia School of Excellence seniors dreamed their final day of school would look like.
“Everyone remain 6 feet apart," announces a Magnolia staff member — preparing the nearly three dozen seniors for a make-shift walk across the stage in the school’s carpool area.
“It’s been such a challenge,” says Assistant Principal Kristen Takara about the last two months of pandemic virtual instruction, and their efforts to make sure all seniors are prepared for the future ahead.
Takara, Principal Mary Nash Robinson, and teachers wanted to give the graduating students a lasting memory of walking across a stage, in the event they’re unable to hold their much more formal, annual event.
As the students’ names were called, they walked across the stage while family members drive by in a car, cheering and honking their horns.
“It’s been crazy. I just want to finish my year off,” says graduating senior Mathew Brothers.
More like, finish off what has been a rocky few years of high school for Mathew.
“Black families don’t deal with mental health issues,” says Mathew’s mother, Amanda. “They just overlook it without getting help."
Amanda says at a very early age, Mathew had moments of extreme anger and crying, tantrums that just didn’t seem typical for a toddler.
“Everyone would say it’s typical, but it was different,” explains Amanda.
The emotional outbursts and moments of isolation continued into his teen years.
Mathew’s love of playing football sadly took a sad turn after his freshman year, eventually being kicked off the team, and later changing schools due to personal behavior issues.
Amanda eventually had Mathew hospitalized where he was diagnosed with depression.
“It was kind of a learning lesson in life,” Mathew said. “Things are going to happen that you don’t want to happen, but you can’t let it set you back.”
Mathew eventually ended up at Magnolia School of Excellence for his junior and senior years.
“God has plans for everyone in the world,” he added.
Magnolia will hold it’s official graduation July 30 at Broadmoor United Methodist Church, so Mathew will eventually walk with his graduating class, something his mother wasn’t able to do with hers.
“It bothers me now because I didn’t get a chance to walk. I don’t have pictures of me in a cap and gown,” a tearful Amanda recalls.
She admits, she too suffered from bouts of depression, and at one time was hospitalized.
With three months to go before her graduation, Amanda dropped out of school due to emotional struggles, later graduating via an online course months later.
When battling depression, anything can potentially send some of its sufferers into a tailspin. That could have happened just weeks ago after the passing of Mathew’s great-grandmother.
“It was like a stab in the heart,” Mathew said.
His mother says Mathew was extremely close to her mother, Bertha, and he took it hard.
“It’s hard because she was my best friend,” Amanda said. “She was the foundation of our family. She was our everything.”
Through it all, Amanda said Mathew handled it well and was able to continue his virtual learning during the pandemic, leading up to graduation.
“I see him breathing now," Amanda said. “His big smile is back.”