Kiona-Benton City junior to "graduate" early as gift to dying mother

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 20, 2013 

— Kara Jordan only has months to live, and really wants to see her daughter graduate from high school.

But her daughter, Rylee Smith, 16, won't be a senior until 2015.

So Rylee will graduate Monday, if only in spirit, to fulfill her mother's dream.

"We're basically doing a time jump, just for a few hours," Rachel Adams, Jordan's sister, told the Herald.

Jordan's relatives, friends and staff and students at Kiona-Benton City High School have kept their efforts secret as they organize the ceremony, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the school's performing arts center.

The school band will perform Pomp & Circumstance and banners will proclaim "Graduation 2015." It won't be an exact recreation of a traditional Ki-Be High graduation -- which usually occurs on the football field -- but it will be close.

"It's a way for us to give back to Mom and fulfill the dream she has," Principal Wayne Barrett said.

Jordan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She continued to attend Rylee's sporting events, even while undergoing heavy chemotherapy, Barrett said.

Doctors declared her cancer-free last year, but then she began to suffer headaches and memory loss, Adams said. New scans revealed tumors on her brainstem and in her lungs.

As Jordan's condition deteriorated, she and her sister also watched their brother -- Rylee's uncle -- struggle with cancer. He died in August.

Her brother's death was very hard on the family, emotionally and financially, and Jordan's thoughts increasingly turned to her desire to see Rylee receive her diploma, Adams said.

"This is something she said to me over and over that she wanted to see," Adams said.

Organizers have spread the word via word of mouth and social media about what the family needs for the graduation. Balloons. Flowers. Decorations. A reception venue.

Someone already has committed to providing balloons and helium for the event, Adams said. The Lions Den in Benton City has been booked for a reception afterward.

Helping Jordan see Rylee in a cap and gown could give Jordan a brief moment of happiness, Adams said.

"This has taught us that you can't wait for anything," she said.

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver

Editors' note: Corrected to fix name misspelling.

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