Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

On June 6, one of Patuxent High School’s graduating seniors was missing from the ranks as the class lined up at Show Place Arena to receive their diplomas.

But Kelly Reagan of Lusby did not miss her graduation due to any academic shortcomings; she had the misfortune of falling suddenly ill and was forced to miss the ceremony.

To make up for it, the Rev. Shawn Holcomb, pastor of Crossroad Christian Church in St. Leonard, gave Reagan the chance to have her own commencement at a recent worship service.

The day she was set to graduate, Reagan had volunteered to pick up her 15-year-old brother, Ryan, from school. When they arrived at home, she said she remained in the car because she had suddenly become very hot and sleepy. Ryan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, didn’t find anything odd about her behavior and went inside the house right away, she said.

About an hour later, Reagan’s 19-year-old brother, Lawrence, needed to borrow the car and came out to find her asleep, according to the family’s account of the incident. When he realized she was unconscious, he called 911. She woke up in the ambulance without any recollection of what happened, she said.

Reagan was at Calvert Memorial Hospital by 2:30 p.m.; hours later, she still had a fever and doctors were unsure as to what caused the fainting spell. At that point, it was clear she was going to miss her graduation.

“I was so disappointed because I had waited four years for this moment,” Reagan said. “It’s a lifelong dream to graduate high school.”

Holcomb found out Reagan was in the hospital and went to check on her with his wife.

“She looked at me with these big tears and said, ‘I missed my graduation,’” Holcomb said. He immediately had the idea to put on a commencement ceremony for her at their church as soon as she was better.

Reagan’s doctors performed many tests and were unable to find anything seriously wrong, she said. They believe she had come down with a virus that spiked a fever, causing her to overheat and pass out.

On Sunday, June 23, after the prayer and worship portion of the church service, Reagan made her way up the aisle in her cap and gown to receive her diploma as “Pomp and Circumstance” rang through the church.

She said she found herself very nervous to be the center of attention.

“She is almost embarrassed to think that people think so highly of her and that they’d want to do this for her,” said Reagan’s mother, Anne.

Reagan joined her parents on the church’s stage, where Holcomb shared high remarks about her character with the congregation.

“Kelly is spunky,” he said. “Don’t ever lose that spunky, childlike faith.”

Anne Reagan and her husband, Larry, also presented their daughter with kind words of praise and encouragement.

Eventually, Kelly Reagan made her way to the microphone and shared her deepest thanks for the opportunity to celebrate her graduation. She shared the lessons she had learned throughout high school and passed them down to the younger members of the church.

“Find your friends and fight for them,” she said.

Kelly Reagan plans to travel to Kyoto, Japan, in the fall and study international relations at Ritsumeikan University. Japanese has been one of her passions since she was a child, and she has found ways to learn the language online and in books. She first traveled to Japan at the age of 14 for a one-month immersion program, and also spent her junior year as an exchange student in Japan.

“I have never seen anyone so motivated about something,” Anne Reagan said of her daughter’s future career pursuits.

Even though graduation day did not turn out the way Kelly Reagan had planned, she said she found a sense of closure in Sunday’s ceremony.

“It’s done and I can finally start moving forward,” she said. “This was 10 times better.”