Graduation brings back memories of mother for Sickles High Senior

For most high school students, graduation starts a new chapter in life, but for one Sickles High School senior and her family, it is the end to their story.

For Ciara Baucom, crossing the stage Thursday night at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa meant finishing a mission her mother never got to complete more than two decades ago.

"I'm extremely proud of Ciara. I'm very excited about it," said Vivien Ondrich, Ciara's grandmother, "but I can't help but remember how much it meant to my daughter to be there, to graduate."

"My mom never got to cross the stage because she was really sick. She had a lot of medical problems," said Ciara.

Cynthia Goodwin, an honors student and beloved school cheerleader was diagnosed with a liver disease in 1988.

She was in and out of the Mayo Clinic throughout her senior year, missing prom and graduation.

Cynthia's little brother Scott, graduating in the same class, accepted his sister's diploma on her behalf, receiving a roaring applause from their classmates.

"There's been a few moments in my life that I'll look back on, and that's one of them. It was a very proud moment for me, because I was very proud of my sister," said Scott Goodwin.

Despite the doctor's grim diagnosis and constant trips in and out of the hospital, Cynthia went on to live 10 years after becoming ill. During that time she gave birth to Ciara, but died when her daughter was 10 years old.

"I assured her that no mater what, she would turn out to be a fantastic person, and we would be the reason for that," said Scott Goodwin.

Like her mother, Ciara graduated with honors. She was accepted to the University of South Florida, but said she plans to work for a year after high school to save money to fund her tuition.

Ciara said in the short time she spent with her mother, the lessons she learned with stick with her throughout life.

"My mom always taught me to do what you have to do for you. No one else is going to do it for you, and you just have to be determined, be a nice person, and smile. You never know who you're talking to, so always be a good person," said Baucom.