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Columbia High School senior dies with COVID-19 just days before the start of the school year

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) -The new school year is underway, and students at Columbia High School are already mourning the death of a classmate. 17-year-old Jo’Keria Graham suddenly died, and her family said it is COVID-19 related.

“She was really sweet. She would do anything you asked her,” explained her brother Jaylen Brown.

Graham was days away from starting her senior year at CHS. She contracted COVID-19 and was expected to miss the first day of school, according to her brother. However, he was preparing her for the big year.

“I left for college last Tuesday, and I was telling her on the phone before I left, make sure you go to the senior picnic. She was going to miss the senior breakfast because she had to quarantine for a couple more days,” said Brown. “She was going to miss the first day of school. I told her to make sure she goes to the senior picnic and make sure she attends prom.”

Just days after taking her senior pictures, Graham tragically passed away. Her brother explained when she woke up that morning, it was just like any other day.

“I mean, it started off like any other normal day. She asked my grandparents to bring something to eat. There weren’t really any signs. It sort of just happened out of nowhere,” said Brown.

He said his sister was healthy. However, she wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Brown, she took all other precautions, including wearing a mask.

“Like I said, you honestly couldn’t tell that she was sick,” said Brown.

Trey Hosford, the Principal at Columbia High School, said Graham was what they look for in every student.

“I’ve spoken to the mom multiple times throughout the week, just kind of letting her know we are thinking and praying for her and offering support,” explained Hosford.

He said the tiger family will be there for graham’s family as long as they need them. Hosford explained they know COVID-19 is real, and as the leader of the school, he is setting an example by wearing a mask and encouraging people who are eligible to get vaccinated.

“I got a cap and gown that’s already been given to that family, so they have a cap and gown as well,” explained Hosford. “I’ve told them anything they need over this next year, we will are here for them.”

Graham will be honored on graduation night for the class of 2022.

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