One high school senior was handed his diploma early, thanks to his principal and the support of his entire high school.
Dom Cooks, 18, is a beloved former football player at Decatur High School in Federal Way, Wash., who has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year. When doctors told him he might have only months to live, school officials decided he would get a graduation ceremony surprise.
“Dom always tells me that tomorrow is not a promise, and so thinking of that reminder, we knew we had today and that today we could do a graduation,” Decatur High School principal David Brower told ABC News.
On Thursday, after just a week’s preparation, Brower and school officials held the graduation ceremony that allowed both Dom and his twin sister, Diamond, to receive their diplomas.
Dom, whose cancer has progressed to the point that he is usually confined to a wheelchair, received a standing ovation when he walked across the stage to accept the document.
“They’ve been together in life, and he didn’t want to be alone at graduation,” Brower told ABC News about Dom’s request that Diamond be allowed to graduate, too. “He wanted her to be with him.”
In addition to more than 70 Cook family members in attendance, Dom got an extra surprise when Doug Baldwin, a Seattle Seahawks wide receiver and new Super Bowl champ, came to the Thursday night ceremony and talked about how Dom had touched his own life.
“He spoke about how he had met Dom when a local TV station had taken Dom to a regular season Seahawks game and how Dom had inspired him and so he rearranged his schedule so he could be there,” Brower told ABC. “It was amazing.”
Dom’s upbeat attitude and sense of humor continues to inspire his classmates and teachers, Brower said.
“He was dancing, and when a teacher started to cry, he said, ‘Ah, don’t you do that,’ and started to mimic her crying,” Brower told ABC. “Dom took the microphone after accepting his diploma and was like a rock star.”
Baldwin helped the struggling senior cross the stage.
“This is a memory that Dom and Diamond and their family will have forever,” Brower told ABC. “They will know that on Feb. 20, the community came together and gave them all the love and support they deserve.”