A Georgia teen honored his mother during his graduation photo shoot after losing her to cancer as a freshman in high school.
“When she was here, we’d always talk about how I was going to graduate and I was going to be the one crying and she was going to be the one laughing and screaming,” KJ Morgan told Good Morning America.
Morgan’s mother, Teresa Colbert, died from cancer on May 19, 2019.
The graduate, 17, did a photo shoot in preparation for his high school graduation. He included a portrait of his mother and wore a custom stole with photos of her on it.
Morgan was on track to graduate in May 2022 but was motivated to graduate a year early after his mom’s death. To accomplish that, he took classes at Central Georgia Technical College on top of his regular high school course load.
“She was already not here,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Why don’t you just graduate early and make it 10 times more better?'”
During the spring semester, he took eight classes, and in the summer, he took five. His graduation was even more special to him, he said because he had to miss class to take care of his mom.
“I missed so many school days taking care of my mom,” Morgan said. “So my ninth-grade year, I was failing classes back to back, yet I still managed to graduate a whole year early. It just put the cherry on top for me. It did it for me to know that my mom wouldn’t be disappointed in me… I just wanted to make her proud, and this was my way of making her proud.”
In a post on social media, the teen shared a lengthy list of accomplishments from the past year and credits it to his mom.
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“She was my bestfriend. My hype man. My partner and crime. My everything,” Morgan wrote in the post about his mom. “Here I am walking the stage without my bestfriend. I’m doing this for you ma.”
His list of accomplishments includes graduating a year early while working as a hairdresser, being an honor society member, owning a business, earning an associate’s degree in early childhood education, and getting accepted into his top three college choices—Georgia State, Georgia Southern, and Fort Valley State universities.
Morgan hasn’t committed to a college just yet. He’s still exploring his career options, like teaching, cosmetology, and social media.
“I’m still kind of deciding because I’m not sure what I want to do in life yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I can be.”
Whatever route he does take, it’ll be inspired by his mother’s words.
“She always told me to be myself—’be you.'”