A special graduation ceremony took place Friday morning at Keller Central High School.Pomp and Circumstance played, speeches were given by Keller school board President Jim Stitt and Central Principal David Hinson, and Superintendent Randy Reid provided a video address.But the most meaningful message came Kareem Rasheed Gibbs, Central’s first graduate of the Class of 2014.“Life is a story, however you write it,” Kareem told the crowd. “My life hasn’t been totally perfect, but I still try to write my story as positively as I possibly can. I really try to make the most out of everything I do in life. I still try to live life to the fullest with no regrets.”Kareem has had cancer since 2007, an undifferentiated sarcoma that began in his hip. This summer aggressive tumors appeared in his heart. He still attends classes at Central, but he and his mother travel weekly to Atlanta for treatment in a clinical trial, in an effort to help future young cancer patients.The special ceremony was arranged after school officials learned that having his mother see him graduate was on Kareem’s “bucket list.”So Friday morning, the day of Central’s homecoming, dozens of family members, more than 650 Central seniors and campus and district officials gathered in the school’s Fine Arts Center to celebrate Kareem’s graduation from high school. As she waited for the ceremony to begin, Gibbs’ mother, Rakiya Muhammed, was overwhelmed. “Mostly what I’ve been thinking about is that it’s been 13 years from kindergarten to graduation, from the boy he was to the person he is today,” she said. “I’m so proud of him.”Kareem was also on Central’s Homecoming Court and will be recognized during halftime of Friday night’s football game.During the graduation ceremony, his classmates stood and applauded several times.“Kareem’s the most inspirational person I’ve met,” said friend and classmate Josh DeLeon. “He’s a testimony to life. He always has a smile on his face.”Hinson described that smile as “infectious” and said most people don’t know he is ill because of his positive attitudeToward the end of the ceremony, senior class President Nathan Hampton told Kareem he could move his tassel from one side of the mortar board to the other to signal his status as a graduate.Seconds later, Kareem pulled out his cellphone and snapped a selfie, bringing laughter from the audience and conveying the joy of the occasion, a reflection of a young man’s enthusiasm for life.Standing on an almost empty stage after the graduation, Kareem said the commencement was even more special than he had imagined.“I feel happy, like I’m on top of the world,” he said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland