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'I know Matthew is up there smiling:' Phase Four Learning Center students graduate with heavy hearts

Phase Four Learning Center holds a hopeful yet somber graduation
Phase Four Learning Center holds a hopeful yet somber graduation 01:56

BALDWIN (KDKA) – It was an exciting yet somber day in Baldwin on Saturday.

Nearly 400 seniors from Phase Four Learning Center walked the stage and got their diplomas.

But it was the absence of two of their classmates that kept it from being a truly celebratory day.

The sun shined brightly above Baldwin High School Stadium as seniors walked across the stage in their caps and gowns.

The school helps disadvantaged students who are at risk of not graduating and said this was their largest graduating class yet.

However, there were two of their classmates missing; 19-year-old Marvin Matthews and 17-year-old Matthew Steffy-Ross.

Marvin died on Sunday in a shooting in Braddock and Matthew was one of the two teenagers killed in the mass shooting at an Airbnb on the North Side on Easter Sunday.

Marvin's family spoke to the crowd while fighting back tears.

"I want to thank all of you at Phase Four for honoring him in Jesus's name, Amen," his mother said.

Matthew's relatives felt comfort during the monumental day.

"Believe it or not, I have a lot of joy because I know Matthew is up there smiling just as if he would have walked across the stage here and got his diploma," said Bonnie McClain, Matthew's great aunt.

Family members said Matthew was a light to everyone he knew.

"People gravitated toward his light," McClain said. "They just came to him and loved him."

The school's president and CEO said encouraging her students keeps them going.

"I told them never to give up," said Dr. Terrie Suica-Reed, the founder, president, and CEO of Phase Four. "There's a lot of good in his world and they are a part of our future."

McClain said that after graduation, Matthew had plans to continue developing his own clothing line with the help of some of his mentors.

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