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School district reverses decision, will recognize graduate who lost battle to cancer

Samantha Corey

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — A Utah school district has reversed course and will recognize a student during commencement ceremonies after the 17-year-old girl graduated shortly before her death in January.

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The Alpine School District announced on Wednesday that Samantha “Mantha” Corey will be recognized when her classmates from American Fork High School graduate on May 22, KUTV reported.

According to her obituary, Samantha Corey died on Jan. 11 after a long battle with cancer. The 17-year-old was a senior at American Fork High School in American Fork, located halfway between Salt Lake City and Provo. She had accumulated enough credits to graduate before her death.

The district originally had turned down the request of Corey’s family to either have family members walk in her place or at least recognize her during commencement, citing a district rule.

On Wednesday, the district said it would make an exception.

“Samantha was loved by her classmates, teachers, and school staff,” the Alpine School District said in a statement. “She will be recognized at the school’s graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 22 at the Marriott Center in Provo.

“Policy is designed to help us effectively administer our programs across the district and our process for exceptions allows us to recognize the uniqueness and beauty of individuals and their stories. We are grateful to our high school administrators who so effectively and passionately advocate for their schools.”

Corey was diagnosed with terminal cancer during her sophomore year, KUTV reported. Despite weekly chemotherapy treatments that caused her to miss school, Corey earned enough credits to graduate.

An online petition, which was started on Tuesday by students seeking recognition for their late classmate, already collected more than 2,600 signatures.

Alpine School District spokesperson Rich Stowell told KSL-TV that a member of Corey’s family will walk across the stage to accept her diploma.

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