Blair students fight to honor classmate

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BLAIR, Neb. (WOWT) -- What some Blair High School seniors thought was an easy gesture, turned out to be much more difficult. They wanted to honor their friend Trent Hill by having an open chair where he would've sat at graduation. Hill passed away in a tragic rollover crash their sophomore year.

“It was just like as stab to the heart,” said Zachary McDonald. “He played such a big part in not just our class but the upper classmen and the under classmen. He just had a good relationship with everybody.”

When the school said no to the chair, McDonald and his friend Nathan Ziemet decided to start a petition to show the support behind them.

“They always talk about fighting for the right thing and doing the right thing, and we're doing it now and they're completely opposed to it,” said Ziemet.

Blair High School Principal Tom Anderson sent WOWT 6 News this statement:

“On Sunday, May 21st, Blair High School will honor 182 seniors in the Class of 2017 with a graduation ceremony. This important day allows students, faculty, families, and friends to celebrate the many achievements of these graduates.

While this is a time for celebration, we understand that it also can be a difficult time for some who have experienced the loss of loved ones in recent years. Students and families who have been directly involved in these losses often wish to express their grief through memorials. Examples of recent memorials include wearing memorial ribbons on their lapels at graduation, releasing balloons outside in honor of classmates after the ceremony, and providing a plant at the graduation ceremony and then presenting that to the family after the ceremony. Blair High School supports these types of memorials.

Blair High School is proud of the accomplishments of the Class of 2017 and looks forward to the graduation ceremony on Sunday.”

The school wouldn't comment on the open chair, but according to several students we spoke to, the school says “leaving a chair open” would make the graduation feel more like a funeral, rather than celebrating accomplishments.

Crystal Robinson's son Daniel is the next student in alphabetical order after Trent; she was told by the school that if her son leaves the seat open, he would not receive his diploma.

“You teach them right and wrong, and then there are rules and morals,” said Robinson. “Most of these kids have been together since kindergarten. This might be the last time they're all together. Maybe they need it. Maybe they need that closure. This is their goodbye.”

The students garnered hundreds of signatures on a petition, even several of the teachers’.

The seniors want people to gather outside Blair High School Friday afternoon at 3:15 to show their support. Graduation is scheduled for this Sunday at 1 p.m. at the high school.