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Dad Arranges For Special Graduation Ceremony For His Daughter

NOEL KING, HOST:

Most graduation ceremonies are canceled this year, which is a bummer for graduates like Gabrielle Pierce (ph), who majored in public health science at Xavier University in Louisiana. She was at home in Memphis when she learned that her commencement was called off.

GABRIELLE PIERCE: I was really devastated. I didn't think that COVID would still be going on around this time.

TORRENCE BURSON: She was sitting on the couch. I was in the kitchen. I looked over at her. She was crying. And as a father, I said, what is it can I do to try to ease some of this pain?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Her dad, Torrence Burson (ph), wanted her to have something.

BURSON: I had prayed about it. And I went to bed. And I woke up in a middle of the night. And I said, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to bring the graduation to the driveway, so everybody can see.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Gabby (ph)...

INSKEEP: Burson sent out a mass text to the whole family. Gabrielle Pierce walked out her front door and saw almost 40 people.

PIERCE: I was thinking we had a couple people, like, some family to come out and then stand in front the garage or whatever. When I finally saw everything, I was just like a child Christmas morning. It's like I was that excited.

KING: There was a stage in the driveway. There were flowers and programs. Her aunt and her pastor gave speeches. And the neighbors watched from the sidewalk.

PIERCE: Everyone had a mask on. We kept our social distancing guidelines with 6 feet apart except for, you know, taking pictures.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BURSON: We love you, Gabby.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You better get that degree, girl.

INSKEEP: Needless to say, her dad is proud.

BURSON: She was an honor student. She was on the dean's list. And I know she worked so hard. What else can a father do to try to make this day special for her?

INSKEEP: Next, Gabrielle Pierce plans to enlist in the Army National Guard and go on to a career in epidemiology.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUNLIGHT ASCENDING'S "FOUR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.