DADE CITY — Vanessa Jasmin Garcia, the terminally ill Pasco High School student who was honored May 2 with a special graduation ceremony at the hospice where she was being cared for, died Tuesday morning. She was 17.
“It's very sad,” Pasco High Principal Kari Kadlub said. “She was an amazing, amazing person.”
Kadlub said the high school plans to create a scholarship program in Garcia's honor. Also, at the 2015 commencement -- which would have been her graduating class -- a chair will be left empty to represent Garcia, the principal said.
The Pasco County School Board observed a moment of silence in memory of Garcia at the board's Tuesday evening meeting.
Garcia was diagnosed with a brain tumor in elementary school, but had been in remission until about two years ago. Even as the tumor returned, Garcia continued to work hard, stayed positive and refused to complain, school officials said.
The teenager began this school year attending her classes and making good grades, but as her condition worsened she was able to spend less and less time in class.
One of her goals was to graduate, and when it became clear she could not finish her studies and might not live to participate in an actual commencement, the district arranged for a special ceremony at the high school to award Garcia an honorary diploma.
Before that happened, though, her condition worsened and she couldn't be moved from her bed.
That's when Pasco High decided to take the ceremony to Gulfside Center for Hospice Care at Bayfront Health Dade City, which is just down the street from the school.
Students, teachers, district officials and others packed into a room just down the hall from Garcia's hospice room for the celebration.
Garcia, who wore her cap and gown, could communicate only with an occasional thumbs up, but through that signal she let everyone know she understood all that was happening.
Among Garcia's survivors are her parents, Renato and Maria Garcia.