SOUTHLAKE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – As we celebrate the class of 2020, school districts for the first time will be presenting diplomas to students who in the past were often left out.

For their families, it will be a time of celebration and heartache.

As Carroll ISD prepares for their graduation ceremony Friday evening, there will be three chairs — with no one in them.

But they represent everything that is special for the dragon class of 2020.

Missing in the crowd will be:

  • Elise Cerami
  • Yolanda Cardenas
  • Sarah Lacy

“Elise’s journey would have included a degree from Carroll ISD,” her mother, Lori Cerami, said. “She was a very determined kid. She wanted to go to Texas A&M for undergraduate and SMU Law for graduate.”

Elise Cerami died in a drowning incident back in 2016. Her mother believes this is one way to keep her memory alive.

“One of the ways we try to live with grief as a grieved parent is having to be able to recapture part of the journey,” she said.

A journey that includes a seat among her peers. A journey that Lori Cerami believes was important for Elise.

The Cardenas family lost Yolanda back in 2014 from a medical condition. Seeing her chair among her classmates means more than just her memories — it’s gratitude and acceptance.

“Remembering Yolanda and her accomplishment and her success that she was able to make but also successes of her fellow classmates,” her mother, Norma Cardenas, said.

None of this would have been possible without a new state law. This past session, lawmakers voted to give students who lost their lives during the school year a diploma posthumously.

In the past, these families often felt left out of the end of the year celebrations.

For the Cerami and Cardenas families, they plan to decorate the chairs with a cap and gown. It may not fill the hole in their hearts but being part of the celebration reminds them of the joy

“This is a joyous occasion and little somber,” Yolanda’s father, David Cardenas, said. “We are proud of her and her classmates and the school districts.”

Sarah Lacy, a senior at Carroll ISD, will be honored, as well. She passed away earlier this year.