MACHESNEY PARK (WREX) – High school graduation is just three months away, but one Harlem student will not be around to see it.
Senior Izabella Sotelo is dying. But friends, family and the Harlem School District wanted to make one of her last wishes comes true, with her very own graduation.
Twenty people were expected at Harlem High School’s auditorium on Friday night. Instead, 150 showed up to graduation day for a class of one.
Izabella Sotelo lit up the stage in a cap and gown she thought she’d never get to wear.
“I’m a proud mom, she worked hard even through her illness. Even ’til the end she kept going going, she was so close,” said Tammie Cogdill, Izabella’s mom.
Izabella’s liver is failing, and her time left on Earth is running out. But on this night, the teen isn’t thinking about what she’s losing. She’s focused on what she’s gaining.
“The Harlem School District is proud to present Ms. Izabella with her 2019 high school diploma,” said Terrell Yarbrough, Harlem’s principal.
“I feel great, it’s a great achievement that I’ve always wanted to work for,” said Izabella.
A great achievement made even more special by the support form the community.
“We thought it was just going to be a small ceremony, something really quick thrown together has turned into this major event,” said Julie Thomas, Izabella’s Spanish teacher.
Thomas said her star student was wise beyond her years. something clear to everyone when Izabella gave these moving words to her fellow classmates, “For the students, I wish you all graduate. Do the things that I couldn’t do. Go to college.”
College may not be possible for Izabella, but her dream of attaining a high school diploma will forever be hers.
Graduation isn’t the only major event Izabella gets to celebrate. She’s getting an early senior prom next week.