BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Nearly 600 students took part in Southern University's 2016 spring commencement ceremony at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The event included a moment of silence and a special recognition for two students who were murdered this year.
The arena was full of graduates, excited and anxious for the moment their names would be called to accept their diplomas.
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"I am overwhelmed, overjoyed. This is a moment I've been waiting for since I was little. I'm a third generation Jaguar. This is something I dreamed of since I was a little girl," Jami Blackston said.
Jami Blackston, a student-athlete, was happy but also heartbroken as she realized there were two empty seats among the graduates.
The two seats represented her friends Annette January and Lashuntae Benton, two innocent victims who were killed in an off campus gun fight back in April. Southern administrators presented their parents with posthumous degrees.
Benton's mother, Theresa Tillman, said Lashuntae would have been the first in the family to graduate.
"Regardless if she is living or not, this would have been for both of us because as parents that's what we do for our children, we dream. So, this one is for you 'Tae Bee.' Momma's got you," Tillman said.
Tillman did not hesitate to talk about the investigation surrounding her daughter and January's deaths. No one has been charged with murder in the shootings. Tillman said she believes police are doing everything they can. She is pleading with witnesses to speak up so that the two young women can rest in peace.
"I'm begging anybody with any information you know that you come forth and give it. Lashuntae and Annette are counting on you," Tillman said.
Benton's family is holding a rally at the State Capital on May 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to raise awareness about gun violence.