After Matt Leavens died on Sept. 13, 2013 — just a few days before his 18th birthday — Pennridge School District asked his mother if she wanted his diploma then or if she preferred to receive it at graduation.
There really never was any question.
“I thought he would want to be there,” Kathy Leavens said a few days before standing in for Matt at the June 12 commencement ceremonies at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena in Lower Saucon Township.
“He would’ve been so proud to be up there,” she said. “He loved school, so he would’ve been very happy to graduate.”
When Leavens was handed the diploma at graduation, first Matt’s classmates, then the entire audience rose in a standing ovation.
Matt, who was a senior in a special needs class at the school, had epilepsy.
After his death, classmates held a walk-a-thon that raised the money to pay for his headstone, plus part of the funeral costs, Kathy Leavens said.
“His class was phenomenal. They raised a lot of money,” she said.
At the walk-a-thon, Kathy Leavens wore Matt’s sneakers.
“Matt loved his sneakers and he had Jordans for everything,” she said.
She wore the sneaks again for graduation.
“I was debating on it,” she said three days beforehand. “I wouldn’t let him wear those to graduation normally, but it was his thing, so I probably will do it.”
Matt, who died unexpectedly in his sleep, was the second son the Hilltown woman had to bury.