RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A beloved Richmond teen lost to gun violence will be honored Tuesday at what would have been his high school graduation.
The family of Jaleel Yates will receive a diploma in his honor. At first, the school system said state regulations don't allow for a family to receive a diploma on behalf of a teenager who dies prior to graduation.
A lot of folks complained, and now there appears to be a change of heart.
"He was that kind of person that would light up a room," said mother Jendaihi Yates. "He stayed smiling. He always had a joke. It was never a bored, dull moment with them."
Eighteen-year-old Jaleel Yates' life was cut short back in March when someone opened fire in a drive-by shooting in South Richmond outside of his home.
"You still can't believe that he's gone," said Jendaihi Yates.
His parents were proud of him, because he was doing his part to finish his last year of school.
"He said he was going to graduate, and we said 'okay Jaleel,' and then the school was calling saying he's putting forth the effort he needed to put forth," said Jendaihi Yates. "She was like, 'as long as he stays on the right track, he'll be able to walk across the stage with the rest of the kids' and he was determined."
After tragedy struck, his family wanted to know if Richmond Public Schools would grant them the diploma he would have received. They say they were told no, because Jaleel never got to take his SOLs.
"When they told me they weren't going to give him his diploma, I put it on social media, and it just went viral from there," said Jendaihi Yates.
The post garnered hundreds of shares from the community, some calling it "unbelievable" and "unacceptable." RPS initially said it had to do with state regulations, but a few hours later, they released an updated statement:
"Clarification was just received that RPS *can* provide our own Honorary Diploma!"
Welcome news to Jaleel's parents.
"He's not here, so let's honor him for the work he did do," said father Jerome Yates. "We are already going through the thing about him being killed. Let's not have two things. We don't want to go through both things, you know."
"Yes, he did it! He did it. That's all I can say is he did it," said Jendaihi Yates.
The graduation will be held Tuesday afternoon at the Altria Theater. The school system has granted 20 tickets for all of Jaleel's friends and family to come celebrate what would've been one of the best days of his life.
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