SPOKANE, Wash. – Graduation season is winding down in our region with thousands of students preparing for the next phase in life.
Sunday evening, seniors at Rogers High School got their turn to celebrate. The class of 2021 worked to ensure one late classmate was not forgotten.
A total of 278 students from Rogers High School received their diploma Sunday afternoon. It should have been 279.
“She's gone,” said Paula Staschek. “She has been gone five years now.”
“I never thought it would happen to us,” said Danielle Zenishek.
Macie Kay-Lynn Zenishek took her own life in March of 2016 when she was in middle school. KHQ spoke with the family in 2018.
“Our whole family, it's just a big whole in our heart…probably always will be,” her grandmother Paula said.
Macie was just 13-years-old. Her family says she was bullied. They had no idea she was struggling with her mental health.
"Words can hurt so bad,” her mother Danielle said.
The loss of Macie changed so many in our community.
“She's made a huge impact,” Danielle said.
Especially on those she should be shoulder to shoulder with at high school graduation.
"We cried, and cried, and cried,” Paula said.
Last month, Danielle started receiving messages from Rogers seniors on social media asking for her blessing to push to have Macie included in the graduation ceremony.
"I never thought it would be a possibility,” Danielle said. “I thought the kids were just trying to being kind."
She had no idea just how much support was out there for including her daughter until she got a call from the school.
"I couldn't believe it,” she said. “They told me the kids were relentless and adamant she be involved in the graduation."
So Sunday, the saved her a seat. The graduation gown she should have been wearing draped over it. Friends brought flowers as well, and her family was given an honorary diploma.
“They want to honor her,” Danielle said.
And remember the girl who changed countless lives through the loss of her own.
“It's bittersweet,” she said. “I’m grateful they are (doing all this.) But I still miss her. I won’t get to hug her after graduation, or bring her flowers.
The family said Sunday was certainly painful, the only thing that can ever ease their grief is knowing Macie’s story may help others.
They are touched by the thought that maybe Macie has taught the biggest, more important lesson of them all. Kindness Matters.
“We have to hold on to that,” Paula said. “That's the only positive out of this.”
The family wanted to extend a huge thank you to the students and staff for their love and kindness. They hope anyone reading this story will go out and do something kind for someone in Macie’s honor.
A bench with Macie’s slogan, ‘Kindness Matters’ was added to a North Spokane park in 2018 and continues to be a beloved fixture. The family hopes anyone who sees someone sitting there will befriend them.