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Graduating Seniors In Parkland, Fla., Hear From Jimmy Fallon


You are not just the future. You are the present. That was the message for seniors graduating from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., nearly four months after the shooting that killed 17 of their fellow students, teachers and administrators. They were all treated to a special guest at the graduation ceremony - NBC "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon. Here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Several hundred Marjory Stoneman Douglas seniors, their parents and friends attended the graduation ceremony at a hockey arena in Sunrise, not far from Parkland. School district officials said they closed the ceremony to the media after students and their families asked that it be kept private. That didn't stop people from inside the hall from taking to social media and posting videos, especially after Jimmy Fallon took the stage. He said he first met some of the students and their teachers at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington in March.


JIMMY FALLON: My wife and I brought our two little girls because we wanted them to see what hope and light looks like. And as I was standing there, watching you guys in awe, I was lucky enough to stand with a lot of your teachers. And let me tell you something. Your teachers are so proud of you. No, really, they were like, I taught him. I taught her.

ALLEN: Joan Botwinick was there to see her daughter Brianna graduate. Botwinick says Fallon lightened the somber mood and had solid advice.

JOAN BOTWINICK: His message was clear. It's life is short. Have fun. Do what you want to do. Do good to other people. And then he told us a joke.

ALLEN: Actually, several jokes. Diplomas were awarded to the four seniors who died in the shooting in February - Carmen Schentrup, Nicholas Dworet, Meadow Pollack and Joaquin Oliver. Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said that was the most emotional part of the ceremony, when the students and teachers killed in the shooting were honored.

CHRISTINE HUNSCHOFSKY: There was a focus on the loss that this community has experienced. And it's heartbreaking to see the family members. And as a parent myself, to think about being at graduation when your child isn't there - I can't even imagine the pain.

ALLEN: At the ceremony, all the families received standing ovations when they came on stage to pick up the diplomas.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Accepting for Joaquin Oliver is his mom Patricia.

ALLEN: When Patricia Oliver came on stage, she was wearing a T-shirt that read, this should be my son. Her family and those of the other three slain seniors have all created scholarships and nonprofit groups to honor their children. Although they're now graduates, many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say they'll remain active in the movement to stop gun violence. Today, Parkland students who were part of the March for Our Lives movement announced they're launching a national voter registration tour beginning June 15. Greg Allen, NPR News, Sunrise, Fla.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCHS' "NOW IT'S OVER. NOW I'M AWAKE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.