Two days before Tennessee teenager Dakota Johnson passed away following a long battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he fulfilled his dream of graduating from high school.
Dakota was hospitalized early last month for heart failure, making it impossible for him to walk across the stage at his graduation, which he had been looking forward to doing all year. Determined to ensure that Dakota would live his dream of graduating, his homeschool teacher Allison Russell brought graduation to his hospital room at Johnson City Medical Center. The young man tragically passed away two days later.
“What mattered most to me is that I wanted Dakota to experience that and his grandmother [who raised him] to experience that,” Allison said. “His grandmother told me that it was probably the happiest day of his life to get that diploma, so I am happy we were able to do that for him.”
© Carrie Stamper Medley
Dakota had been homeschooled through the Johnson City School District since he was in the seventh grade, and going into this year, he had told Allison that his two goals were to attend the prom and graduate from Science Hill High School.
Allison organized the entire graduation for him, and his hospital room was filled with family, friends, medical staff, Science Hill High School’s principal, and school superintendent, Dr. Steve Barnett, who personally presented Dakota with his diploma. Afterwards, Dakota’s aunt Susan Breeden talked about how much the ceremony meant to their family.
“Thank you for honoring him, the nurses at the hospital, and the school system,” she said. “We are forever grateful for their kindness.”
After his death, Allison talked about how she would always remember Dakota for his wonderful personality.
“[He was] a very funny young man, had a wonderful sense of humor… was very caring, very loving, he loved the people around him,” she said. “I’m really proud of him and what he’s accomplished, and I’ll miss him for a lifetime.”
Find out more about Dakota’s story in the video below.