What’s also interesting is that McSpadden earned her diploma alongside her daughter, Daysa, thanks to the local school district’s adult high school education program, which allowed her to attend classes on weekday afternoons.
McSpadden dropped out of Ladue Horton Watkins High School after giving birth to her son in her junior year. After creating the We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, she decided to go back and get her diploma. The initiative, made in her late son’s honor, focuses on advocating for justice and advancing education. Specifically, McSpadden got encouragement to go back and finish high school from Art McCoy, a Missouri school district superintendent after he learned she never completed school.
“We had to get her educated and get a diploma,” McCoy told the St. Louis Dispatch. “What better way is it to honor your son than to get the degree he got?”
McSpadden worked on getting her diploma at Jennings High School in Jennings, Missouri along with her daughter, Deja Brown. However, their schedules didn’t overlap.
“She would just go to afternoon class, so we never really interacted at school or in class or anything,” Brown told the St. Louis American. “But I did help her on homework. Like, math, she was like, ‘I’m stuck! I don’t understand this!’ so I would try to help her the best I could, because it was geometry, which I took already.”
The mother-daughter duo crossed the stage on the same day at Chaifetz Arena on May 26. It’s also worth noting that McSpadden, who presented her daughter’s diploma, is the first graduate of the district’s adult program.
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Deja Brown, who will attend Tennessee State University in the fall to study to become a neonatal nurse, told the St.Louis American that she’s proud of herself and her mother for finishing school.
“I know it’s something that she’s wanted to do,” she said. “She’s done it and she’s worked really hard, and she’s so excited and I’m excited for her!”
Meanwhile, Benjamin Crump, the family lawyer, told the Post-Dispatch that the ceremony was especially meaningful considering the trauma the family has experienced. He said McSpadden told him she “has a purpose now to try to uphold the legacy of her son.”
Michael Brown was 18 years old when he was shot six times by white officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. His killing sparked days of protest in the predominantly black city. The unrest garnered national attention and Black Lives Matter protests spread throughout the country. In November 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.
As the world knows in 2014, her son, Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson at age 18. His controversial death ignited national outrage, sparking racial tension across the county and helped usher in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.