Family, friends and pro-life advocates gathered Saturday to celebrate the graduation of Maddi Runkles, the pregnant 18-year-old whose Christian school barred her from commencement ceremonies.
Students for Life leaders, who have been supporting Runkles, attended the private ceremony along with about 140 other family and friends, the Daily Mail reports.
Maddi’s father, Scott Runkles, Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins and others spoke at the special private ceremony arranged specifically for the young woman. Maddi chose not to speak during the ceremony. The event was hosted by Benevola United Methodist Church in Boonsboro, Maryland.
Here’s more from the report:
‘If you would have asked me a few months ago, if I thought my daughter would be in this position today, I would have said, “No way”,’ Maddi’s father Scott Runkles said at the special ceremony, the Herald-Mail reported.
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Runkles’ story gained international attention several weeks ago after her school, Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, would not allow her to participate in its graduation ceremony, saying she had broken a pledge of abstinence. Runkles publicly apologized for breaking the pledge during a school assembly and accepted school administrators’ decision to prohibit her from continuing in her school leadership roles.
However, Students for Life and others argued the school went too far by banning Runkles from graduation, saying other students also had broken the pledge but had not been banned from walking. Many pro-life advocates said she was treated unfairly because she is pregnant.
Students for Life has been raising support for Maddi and her unborn son. On Saturday, Hawkins presented her with a $16,000 scholarship and nearly 7,000 messages of support and encouragement sent by people in more than a dozen countries.
“We are so proud of Maddi for not only her courage to make a good decision in difficult circumstances, but to be an example to other students in similar situations and challenge Christian schools on their policies towards pregnant students like herself,” Hawkins said. “It was an honor to celebrate Maddi’s achievements today and we can’t wait to meet her baby boy in the fall.”
Maddi said she plans to attend college in the fall and study business. She said she plans to name her son Greyson.
School administrators at Heritage said they are glad Maddi chose life for her son. They also said they disciplined her because she was immoral, not because she is pregnant.
However, Students for Life said Christians need to re-evaluate the messages they send when they discipline and shame young pregnant women like Maddi.
“The school could have used Maddi’s story as an example of how to do the right thing and support a pregnant student. But they didn’t,” the group wrote in May. “The proper legacy to leave is a picture of a Christian school that chose to do the right thing by supporting a young girl who acknowledged her mistake but also chose to do the right thing in the end.”