Mother accepts diploma for son killed in car accident days before graduation

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CALUMET CITY, Ill. -- Commencement for seniors at one Chicago area high school was as joyous as it was sad, WGN reported.

WGN reported that while they experienced the thrill of graduating, students at Thornton Fractional North High School mourned for a fellow classmate at the same time.

18-year-old Aaron Dunigan was headed home from prom early Saturday when he was killed in a head-on collision Saturday, according to WGN.

“As we celebrate the hope and possibility that we have here today in front of us, we also have to celebrate the life and experience of Aaron Dunigan,” Thornton Fractional North High School Principal Dwayne Evans told WGN.

The school decided to honor Dunigan at graduation, according to WGN. In front of a packed auditorium, Dunigan's mother, who was dressed in cap and gown, was called up in her son’s place for a special recognition.

"I'll be sitting in his chair," Dunigan's mother, Katherine Jackson told WGN. "I'll be his legs and he'll be my wings. We are going to get our diploma."

At the graduation officials asked students to not think about how Dunigan died, but focus more on how he lived.

"So I say to you tonight, while our hearts are heavy and while we are experiencing death and anguish, it's still a time to celebrate because when tomorrow comes, you have to live," District Superintendent Creg Williams said.