At Annunciata School on Chicago’s South Side, 18 smiling kindergarteners walked across a wooden stage to receive diplomas.
As each child crossed the stage, parents, grandparents and family members stood to take pictures.
One student had a large cheering section filled with police officers — including Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Alejandro Valadez Jr.’s father, Alex Valadez, was a Chicago police officer. In 2009, just a few months before Alejandro was born, Alex died while answering a call of shots fired in the Englewood neighborhood.
“He’s a part of CPD family now,” Johnson said. “And will be part of CPD family forever.”
Johnson shook the boy’s hand, and after the ceremony, the kids were greeted outside by police horse patrols, a fire engine and police cars to climb into.
Alejandro got a new green bicycle from CPD as a graduation gift.
His aunt Wilda Garcia said the day is bittersweet.
“He so much like my brother. Always happy and playful, joking around,” Garcia said, wiping away tears. “It’s so nice to know that my brother’s not forgotten.”
The gunman who killed Alex Valadez was sentenced to over 100 years in prison in 2014.
Yolanda Perdomo is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @yolandanews