CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For new UNC Charlotte graduates, that graduation means celebration.
“Oh, I’m just so happy,” graduate Emia Black said after she walked across the stage.
It means happy tears.
“Because I’m the first generation to actually get a degree,” Crystal Andrade said.
But it also means a sense of loss.
“We’re celebrating such a big accomplishment, and not everybody can be here for that,” Wendy Jimenez said.
The graduates wore white ribbons on their green gowns Friday, in memory of the students killed in the on-campus shooting, just less than two weeks ago.
“I’d say it was a little bit different than most graduations considering the events that occurred,” said Reilly Becker.
At UNC-Charlotte’s Saturday afternoon commencement ceremony, Chancellor Phillip Debois said it is a time for celebration, but also to recognize the students impacted by the shooting.
“I think it was really important for us to acknowledge the victims and the people that sacrificed their lives and were involved in that tragedy in any way, shape, or form,” said one graduate.
Riley Howell’s 23 family members present at the graduation ceremony were honored for being there. His parents, siblings and girlfriend were brought on stage to accept a degree for Riley in memorium.
Emily Houpt who was injured in the shooting was also given a standing ovation as she received her degree in international studies.
“We are going to stand with their families are we are going to continue to hope and pray to make sure this is prevented," said one graduate.
“We stand beside each other and really show that team attitude when it comes to 49ers,” said Becker.
Reed Parlier was honored at the Saturday morning commencement ceremony.
Some students said this was their first time returning to campus, since the shooting happened.
The school devoted several moments to remember Reed Parlier and Riley Howell, with gestures including a special song dedicated to the two young men, and a moment of silence.
The school also announced donated funds to create $1 million in scholarships, in Riley and Reed’s names.