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Northview graduates told they couldn't walk with tributes on their caps

Angelita Ledesma wanted to use her cap as a memorial to her late brother. Mickayla Desonier decorated with loved ones and a quote.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich — Angelita Ledesma and Mickayla Desonier had been looking forward to graduation for as long as they can remember. Walking across the stage at Northview High School is an achievement they earned, and they hoped to celebrate the people who helped get them their as they collected their diploma's. They decorated their graduation caps to represent people they love, but were told they couldn't wear them.

Ledesma had a cap featuring a picture of her brother, Armando. When she was 1 year old, Armando died in a car accident on his way home from the University of Michigan. He was a week away from graduating.

"I just always felt like he was that angel over me making sure that I was never hurt," Ledesma said. "This moment is the biggest moment of my life that I wanted to do with my brother because he couldn’t be here for mine."

Desonier put pictures of friends and loved ones on her cap, along with a quote. It read 'It makes such a difference said pooh to have people that believe in you' with red and yellow flowers on either side.

"Having all of these people with me just meant a lot," She said. "To show my appreciation to them, like you are the reason that I’m walking today and I just felt like it was important."

Northview has guidelines in place for what decorations are allowed on graduation caps. Those restrictions limit decorations to "be reflective of your involvement in a school sponsored club, sport, or program. Caps may also include designs indicating a college, tech/training program, or military branch a senior may be attending upon graduation."

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Ledesma said she asked a teacher about it and was told they keep inappropriate messages and profanity out. A spokesperson for Northview also sent this statement:

“We were thrilled to celebrate the Class of 2022 during our graduation last night. Seeing the culmination of 13 years of hard work in our students’ educational journey is always a rewarding experience – one that we are grateful we got to share in person with district families. To ensure that all families enjoy the celebration, the district traditionally implements minimal guidelines for graduates to follow, including limiting cap decorations so that the focus remains on all of our students. We extend best wishes to our graduating students as they embark on their next adventure. For a number of years the high school has utilized a “Remembrance” candle as a visible tribute to all of those people who could not be at the graduation ceremony. The high school explains the reason and purpose to all of its seniors at graduation practice. They also have the senior class President explain the purpose of the candle to the audience in attendance prior to reading the final roll call of its graduates." 

Desonier and Ledesma feel the restrictions are too rigid. They agree inappropriate messages should be left out, but think there should be more room for expression.

"I want them to be able to decorate their cap and it not be minimized to high school clubs or sports and where you’re going to college," Desonier, the oldest of five siblings said.

"They should let us make our own decision with our walk," Ledesma added. "but I will always be proud of Northview for the education they gave me."

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