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Dying Illinois student gets to graduate high school early

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (NBC News) — High school graduation is just 3 months away — but one Illinois student will not live to see it.

Senior Izabella Sotelo is dying.

But friends, family , and the Harlem School District wanted to make one of her last wishes comes true with her very own graduation.

In a packed auditorium, with tears in their eyes, Harlem High School held graduation day for a class of one.

Izabella Sotelo lit up the stage in a cap and gown she thought she’d never get to wear.

“I’m a proud mom, she worked hard even through her illness. Even ’til the end she kept going, she was so close,” said Tammie Cogdill, Izabella’s mom.

Izabella’s liver is failing, and her time left on earth is running out. This night, though, the teen isn’t thinking about what she’s losing– but rather, what she’s gaining.

“I feel happy. I feel great, it’s a great achievement that I’ve always wanted to work for,” said Sotelo.

And it’s a moment everyone there won’t soon forget.

“We thought it was just going to be a small ceremony, something really quick thrown together has turned into this major event,” said Julie Thomas, Izabella’s Spanish teacher.

Thomas said her star student was wise beyond her years, something clear to everyone with these moving words to her fellow classmates.

“To the students, I wish you all graduate. do the things that I couldn’t do. Go to college,” said Sotelo.

College may not be possible for Izabella– but this high school diploma will forever be hers.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed Izabella’s hometown as Harlem. It is Machesney Park. 

NBC News

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