HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Many graduation ceremonies around the Tri-State Area were canceled because of COVID-19.

One family in Hackensack missed out on four graduations, but Karleigh Dillard, Brey’l DuPree and their mother, LaShawn Dillard-McBean, have a lot to celebrate, CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported Thursday.

“I just graduated from Hackensack High School,” Dillard said.

“I just graduated from Virginia State University with a bachelor’s in social work,” DuPree added.

“I just graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s in psychology,” said Dillard-McBean. “My husband graduated from Yeshiva University with his Master’s in social work.”


LaShawn had started college years ago, but didn’t finish. She had the two girls and works as an insurance specialist at a hospital.

“Taking care of me and my sister and paying my sister’s way through college,” said Karleigh Dillard. “And then going to work every day, including weekends. I’m proud of her the most.”

When Brey’l started college, her mom decided to finish. She took online courses at the University of Phoenix, earning her bachelor’s degree.

“I keep saying it took me like 20-25 years, but I did it and I’m proud of myself, too,” said Dillard-McBean. “But, my greatest achievement would be Brey’l and Karleigh.”

“I’m very proud of her. My mom has always been my role model and my inspiration,” said DuPree.

The whole family graduated from Hackensack High School and everyone was looking forward to Karleigh’s graduation this year until coronavirus hit and everything was shut down.

So instead, Karleigh had a graduation parade and took some pictures. Brey’l had the same deal. While they’re both disappointed parties and ceremonies had to be canceled, they get it.

“I don’t take life for granted. Although I’d love to do all those things, I’d rather also stay alive and healthy,” said Dillard.

As far as the future, Brey’l is ready to work, LaShawn will pursue her Master’s degree, and Karleigh is heading to Spellman College next month with plans to go into law.

“Everything that’s going on with Black Lives Matter and injustice, I want to be able to help minorities,” said Dillard. “I feel like we need more black lawyers and doctors.”

The family plans to celebrate their graduations next year, when they can plan a big trip.


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