Elise Cerami was going into her freshman year at Carroll Senior High. Tragically, she drowned during swim practice in June 2016 ending her education aspirations.
“Engineering degree and then she wanted to go to SMU to get her law degree,” her mother Lori Cerami said. “She wanted to be a patent attorney. So she was very driven, very dedicated to her school, but also the sport of swimming as well."
With her higher education goals, the family was hurt to learn they couldn't get her high school diploma posthumously.
But they worked with State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) to change a 2007 law.
"We had Jennifer's Law revised to include underclassman,” Cerami said. “That way you could still get a piece of your child's journey, even if they hadn't quite made it to their senior year."
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This change allowed the family to decorate her chair for what would have been her senior year graduation.
“Therefore it wasn't an empty chair,” Cerami said. “We were able to place a cap and gown in her chair and a picture of her and little small flag that said, 'Congratulations Elise.'"
Her name was read as part of the graduating class, which means her memory continues for her mother.
"I talk about her a lot in the present because she is still very present to me in my own heart,” Lori Cerami said. “Just because your child died doesn't mean you stopped loving them."
Jennifer's Law makes the posthumous diplomas available.
Families must talk with their public school districts to make this happen.