2 Fitch grads survived ultimate loss to reach today's commencement


When Makaela Giannini and Emanuel Dawkins stepped forward Sunday to accept their diplomas as members of the Fitch High School Class of 2018, they each had an unseen angel walking beside them.

Both students lost their mothers to cancer during their years at Fitch. Makaela’s mom, Teresa Giannini, died in 2015 at the age of 47; Emanuel’s mom, Kinyata Evans, died a year earlier at the age of 36. Both said the losses deeply impacted their lives.

“She was my best friend,” Emanuel said of his mom. “When I lost her, I didn’t know what to do. I really didn’t do anything but stay in my room.”

Sports ultimately was his way out of the darkness, and he found release on the football field and basketball court.

Makaela will study nursing at Youngstown State University and wants to eventually become a physician assistant. She had her own medical problems growing up, with a severe case of scoliosis. During her seventh-grade year, she underwent a massive spinal fusion surgery to correct a radically curved spine. She missed most of the school year that year.

“I’m glad I had it done though, because they said otherwise I would have been in a wheelchair by the time I was 20,” she said. “I know that if I could go through that and do that as a 13-year-old, then I can do anything. I know what I’m capable of.”

Read more about them and the event in Monday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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