Brother walks in University of Florida Fall commencement for his fallen sister
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The University of Florida fall graduating class of 2021 walked across the stage on Friday without one student who earned her degree, but a family member got to walk instead.
Mariel White received her degree on Dec. 2 after fighting a rare vascular disease that she contracted as a freshman in 2017. She adapted and even through multiple strokes and paralysis she earned her degree. Three days after having her Bachelor’s delivered, she died.
On Friday her brother, Weston was the first of over three thousand to cross the stage for her sister.
“It was an incredible opportunity. It was difficult at first when the opportunity was first provided to me, but it’s an incredible honor to be able to walk in her place and bask in her accomplishments,” said Weston.
Jill Olny, the siblings’ mother, was proud of all the things that Mariel accomplished.
“In true Mariel fashion, she rose to the challenge, so it was scary but she was determined. That’s who she was, she was full of grit and determination and she set a goal for herself and she got to it, so we’re very proud of her but we miss her a lot,” said Olny.
When university leadership share Mariel’s story, the entire crowd in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center stood and cheered her accomplishments.
The university will now have a new process to help terminally ill students to graduate in honor of Mariel.
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