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School holds early graduation ceremony for teen with terminal illness

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Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-21 00:29:29-05

FARMINGTON, Utah -- Mariah Evans has taken care of her son, Riley Person, for 19 years, and now she is cherishing the last moments she has with him.

“I cannot think of anything worse, I mean it’s your child and nobody wants to lose their child,” said Mariah Evans, who is Riley’s Mother.

Person is fighting not his first, but his second battle with cancer.

“It’s hard to hear that your child has cancer the first time, but it’s horrific to hear it the second time,” Evans said.

Doctors told Evans in January that her son did not have much time to live. Now, he is receiving hospice care at his home, which makes it impossible for him to go to school to finish his high school education.

When his teachers, like Peter Vanderlinden, at Vista Education Campus in Farmington found out, they put in a plan into action.

“He needed to be rewarded for his efforts because he was such a good student,” Vanderlinden said.

To do that, a small graduation ceremony was held in Person’s living room to celebrate his accomplishments.

“He earned it all, we didn’t do this certificate of completion to help him or make him feel good,” Vanderlinden said. “He earned it, and we wanted to reward the efforts that he did.”

It’s something that Person, who has autism, has always wanted to have.

“It’s really important to me,” Riley said. “It’s one of the most special days I’ve had. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

And it’s a memory his mother will always hold dear.

“Every mom wants to see their kid graduate, every mom. It’s a big deal,” Evans said.

It is not known how long Person has to live, but he plans to make each day special.

“Just make every day count and do whatever I can before I basically go,” Riley said.