More than 800 students graduated from Luzerne County Community College Thursday evening.
As they prepared to bravely step into their next phase in life, the keynote speaker at the ceremony was a woman who knows all about bravery.
Kaitlin Roig-Debellis was the teacher who saved her first grade class during the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
It was the deadly school shooting that rocked our nation and broke hearts across the country.
The morning of December 14, 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six teachers.
Fifteen first grade students were among the survivors due to the quick thinking of their teacher, Kaitlin Roig-Debellis who hid them in their classroom’s tiny bathroom.
At the graduation ceremony for Luzerne County Community College at Mohegan Sun Arena, Kaitlin got a standing ovation before saying even one word.
Kaitlin said when hearing those gunshots inside the school, she simply reacted.
“It was a split second decision, and you`re always asked how to make a split second decision in the second that you need to,” said Kaitlin. “For myself the only decision that needed to be made was do I want us to survive and the answer to that question is we need to hide.”
Many of the graduates said Kaitlin`s story is inspirational and courageous.
As they face the next chapter in their lives, they will take what she says with them.
“Somebody`s whose been through tragedy, who’s wanting to make a difference, to make something good out it, I think that`s so important in life,” said Susan Porter-Allen
“I know she was through a lot, and I think her ordeal will give all the graduates something to think about and how lucky we are,” said Michael Danilowicz.
Still Kaitlin refuses to call herself a hero.
She says on December 14, 2012, she was what she always was: a teacher looking out for her students.
“I claim no credit in what happened that day, we certainly had angels on our side and somebody looking out for us.”
Kaitlin is on sabbatical from her teaching job as she works for the nonprofit program she founded called Classes 4 Classes, a web-based program that teaches children to be compassionate and considerate to one another.