Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon was the surprise commencement speaker at the Florida high school where 17 people were killed in a shooting rampage.
According to social media posts, Fallon told the 748 members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High class of 2018 to persevere in the face of difficulty and thanked them for their bravery and activism.
The ceremony Sunday honored four seniors slain in the Feb. 14 attack.
Diplomas are being presented to the families of Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup.
Charged in the shooting is 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. His attorneys have said he will plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The school principal, Ty Thompson, underscored the honors to the four slain students in a tweet Sunday.
“Remember those not with us, and celebrate all the successes the Class of 2018 has brought to the community and the world!” Thompson tweeted.
The Broward School District kept the event private. Only invited guests were admitted, and the media is barred from inside the arena.
Some parents of slain students said they would not attend graduation.
Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, said he’s too emotionally spent to attend the ceremony. Meadow’s brother, boyfriend and cousins were to accept her diploma. Her brother, Hunter Pollack, made his feelings about the day known on Twitter.
“Today is the day my sister has been waiting for. Graduation where she would’ve been getting her diploma and be on her way to attend college. This is a sad day, as I will be walking stage to get her diploma for her,” his post says.
Andrew Pollack has been an outspoken critic of school and law enforcement officials, saying they failed to protect his daughter and the others, but that’s not why he’s staying away.
“It has nothing to do with them,” Pollack told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. “I’ve just been dead inside since Feb. 14.”
Instead, he’s headed to central Florida where this week he will address the armed guards one district has hired for its schools.
April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen Schentrup was among the 17 killed in the shooting, posted a photo of Carmen wearing her graduation gown and cap, the Sun Sentinel reported .
“For me, it is too painful to celebrate w/o Carmen,” she said in an online post. “But I am proud of Carmen’s friends & classmates on their accomplishments. They’ve overcome so much. I know they will cont to make positive changes.”
As families arrived for the ceremony, gunshots from a nearby public shooting range could be heard echoing over the parking lot.