Siblings defy obstacles to graduate together

Siblings defy obstacles to graduate together

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Walking across the stage to receive a diploma, is an accomplishment two Monacan high school seniors have waited years for, and they were unsure if it would be possible at one point in life.

“When I was a freshman in high school--that was our first time in school together,” said PJ Morrissey. "A lot of [Emily’s] doctors said she would never walk--one of the biggest milestones was going to be me and her walking across the stage together at the Siegel Center to get our diplomas.

PJ and Emily Morrissey have remained by each other’s side their entire lives. Emily, is three and a half years older than PJ, overcoming obstacles her entire life.

She was born prematurely in 1998 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Emily has found a way to care for others through her business, Emily’s Bracelet’s. She makes each with care and love, donating proceeds to the Special Olympics.

“[During the pandemic], we diverted the resources from Emily’s Bracelets to make masks for those on the front lines.”

Emily Morrissey has diverted the resources from her bracelet making business to make masks for first responders.
Emily Morrissey has diverted the resources from her bracelet making business to make masks for first responders. (Source: Emily's Bracelets)

While they have not been going to Monocan every day for school, PJ has been working as an EMT to help others.

“It’s allowed us to spend more time together and help people in need,” PJ said.

High school was the first time, the siblings attended the same school and they were looking forward to graduation day in June 2020.

“I have been to every one of the graduations during high school because of band,” he said. “Then we found out we wouldn’t be able to walk at the Siegel Center. You were kind of hoping some miracle would happen, coronavirus would go away, and everything would go back to normal.”

Chesterfield County Public Schools has announced it will offer two ways for students to graduate.


Each high school will welcome individual 2020 graduates and up to five family members for the in-person awarding of the graduate’s high school diploma.

This event will take place in the school’s auditorium over the course of a number of days. Dressed in a cap and gown, each graduate will hear their name called, walk across the stage to receive their diploma and be congratulated by the school’s principal. Families may take photographs and/or video of this individual student opportunity. A separate area also will be established outside of the auditorium for family photos. (Unfortunately, the school division will not be able to provide a contracted photographer at this event since all 11 graduations will occur at the same time.)

High schools will schedule these opportunities with individual families. Stay tuned for more information from your school’s principal.

All appropriate social distancing measures will be taken, including the use of multiple staging areas leading into the school auditorium. Guests are expected to wear facial coverings. Please make sure that you arrive at the school on time for your scheduled appointment, as there may not be an opportunity to fit your graduate back into the schedule.


Chesterfield County Public Schools will produce an official virtual graduation ceremony for each high school.

Aired on the school division’s TV channels (Verizon 96 and Comcast 26), social media outlets and available on the school division’s website, these taped ceremonies will include graduation remarks and remembrances from the senior class president (or another Class of 2020 member), principal, Superintendent and School Board member. Each school’s valedictorian and salutatorian will be acknowledged, as will other senior class accomplishments. Following the remarks, each member of the Class of 2020 will be recognized via their senior portrait and the calling of their name during the “presentation of diplomas.”

Schools will release virtual graduation ceremony dates soon. We appreciate our partners at Southside Church for allowing us to use their facility for taping.

Please be looking for information from individual schools about submitting photos for those graduates for whom we do not already have a yearbook portrait.

“I am headed to the College of William and Mary in the fall, and Emily will be home still growing her business making bracelets for everybody and trying to make an impact on the community,” explained PJ.

While they will not have the moment they imagined at the Siegel Center, PJ says they are looking forward to an opportunity to walk across a stage and receive their diplomas together at the school where they spent the last four years by each other’s side.

“Seeing her in the hallway, or giving her a hug or high five was definitely very special," he said. “I think it will still be special that I will get to walk across the stage with Emily and we will both get to mark this milestone together.”

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