Science Hill student passes away days after earning diploma

Local

Dakota Johnson’s final days were made special thanks to staff with Johnson City Schools and the Johnson City Medical Center. 

Johnson, 19, passed away early Friday morning after a valiant fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 

Johnson was able to complete his school work, but wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage due to the illness. 

So Johnson City Schools brought the graduation to him. 

Susan Breeden is Johnson’s aunt and tells News Channel 11 the gesture meant a lot to the family.

“Thank you for honoring him, the nurses at the hospital, and the school system. We are forever grateful for their kindness,” she said. 

Johnson was able to have photos taken with family, friends, and JCMC staff after getting his diploma. 

Dakota’s homebound teacher, Allison Russell, organized the graduation ceremony for him, after he had been admitted to the hospital last Friday due to heart failure.

“What mattered most to me is that I wanted Dakota to experience that and his grandmother to experience that,” Russell said. “His grandmother told me that it was probably the happiest day of his life to get that diploma, so I am happy we were able to do that for him.”

Dakota Johnson has been enrolled in homebound schooling through Johnson City Schools since seventh grade. He told his teacher he had two goals he wanted to achieve this year. One of his goals was to go to prom and the other is to graduate. Allison Russell was able to make one of those come true.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Steve Barnett sent News Channel 11 the following statement Friday evening. 

“We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Dakota Johnson. Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies go out to the family during this very difficult time. Dakota’s persistence and hard work earned him his degree and we were honored and grateful to bring graduation to him to allow him and his family to enjoy a very special moment.”

– Steve Barnett

You can watch the ceremony below: 

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