Lezley McSpadden, the mother of the late Michael Brown Jr., will receive her high school diploma from Jennings High School on Friday, as part of the school’s 100th commencement.
McSpadden, 37, worked with Jennings School District Superintendent Art McCoy Jr. to start the Adult Education Program through which she earned her diploma as its first graduate.
“When I first met with Lezley, I wanted to help with her foundation,” McCoy told The American.
McSpadden is founder and president of the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons and Daughters Foundation, named after her son, who was killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, sparking unrest in Ferguson, which neighbors Jennings. The foundation works to “build capacity at the intersection of four core outcome components: justice, health, education and family,” according to its mission statement.
“But,” McCoy said, “I also wanted to help with her education.”
He knew what this would mean to her, in particular, as a mother.
McCoy told The American, “I told her this would be a perfect tribute to him, going back to finish your high school education. And she decided to go for it and worked hard to get there.”
McCoy closely monitored McSpadden's progress as a student, up to the final math exam this month, clearing her final hurdle to graduation.
McSpadden will walk across the stage and accept her diploma as a published author who has been reviewed all over the world. Her memoir, “Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown,” written with Lyah Beth LeFlore, was published last year.
In all, 160 students will graduate at what is the district’s 100th commencement. McSpadden’s daughter, Deja Brown, is also a graduating senior. The ceremony will be held 7 p.m., Friday, at the Chaifetz Arena, 1 S. Compton Ave., in St. Louis. It is free and open to the public.
Chris King is editorial director of The St. Louis American, where this story was originally published.