Dad upset his daughter won't have a graduation ceremony transforms driveway into a stage
via Fox 13 Memphis

One of the most disappointing things about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it wiped out graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 whether its kindergarten, eighth grade, high school or college.

Envisioning oneself walking up on stage and grabbing a diploma in front of your peers, family and community is one of the prime motivators that gets people to class.

The Obama's are doing their best to make sure the Class of 2020 has a commencement speaker with a message to help spur them to the next chapter in life. But for the Class of 2020, the end of the school year is more than anti-climactic.


Gabrielle Piece, a graduate from Xavier University in Louisiana, was devastated that she couldn't walk across the stage to accept her diploma in biology, a focus in pre-medicine. "Initially I was upset. I was crying," she told Fox 13 Memphis.

"It took me like a week to stop crying," Gabrielle continued. "I really wanted to walk, I felt like I needed to walk."

via Fox 13 Memphis

Gabrielle's father, Torrence Burson, a man known for over-the-top gestures, was just as upset that she wouldn't get the graduation day she deserved. So he decided to create a ceremony himself."I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'That's it. I'm just going to be the graduation here,'" Torrence said.

"After all those years, you're going to walk across somebody's stage if I have to build you one myself," Torrence told his daughter. Torrence built a stage in the driveway of his home, complete with loudspeakers that barred the graduation march. The ceremony had and invocation, a welcome speech and they played Whitney Houston's incredible version of the National Anthem.

Neighbors drove by honking in support of the graduate.

via Fox 13 Memphis

Torrence even printed up a program to celebrate the historic day:

Gabrielle graduated from Southwind High School in 2015 with the ambition to attend the Illustrious Xavier University of Louisana to achieve a degree in Biology Pre-Medicine.

During her junior year of college, she decided to go into another direction in medicine by deciding to go into Public health Science for Epidemiology. After all the trials and tribulations she went through, she completed college with 130 credit hours.

She now plans to join the Armed forces to accomplish her end goal of working for the CDC.

"We love our daughter this much. Regardless of the dollar figure, what it took to pull this off. If I had to do this over again, I'd probably do it even bigger," Torrence said.

"It was just amazing," Gabrielle said. "Better than the actual graduation, because it was more personal."

Gabrielle plans to enter the Air National Guard before going back to school to become an Epidemiologist.


Father pulls out all the stops for 'at-home' graduation after university ceremony canceled www.youtube.com

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.