By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A mother who lost her daughter last year is pleading with the school district to read her name at graduation. Last September, Cheyenne Mikkelson and friend Taylor Wieland died when their car crashed into a tree. They were headed to work at the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee.

Taylor Wieland and Cheyenne Mikkelson (credit: Molly Rank)

The friends were going into their senior year at New Prague High School.

“Any parent that’s lost a child, the pain is unbearable,” Candace Mikkelson said.

Graduation is a milestone Candace has thought about since her death.

“We missed out on senior pictures, we missed out on prom, we missed out on everything, this is all we had left to hang on to,” Mikkelson said.

New Prague High School used to leave an empty seat with a graduation gown to recognize a student who has died. And Candace said they would read the student’s name, although the district can’t recall a time they did that. But it’s what she wants for her daughter.

“This is almost a closure thing to me where we can close out her high school career, like every other student,” Mikkelson said.

She was told that won’t happen. The school district said a crisis team began working on a memorial policy in 2016. The school board approved it in February, after looking at best practices and acknowledging the need for consistency saying, “A written policy was needed because each school was dealing with questions on memorials and procedures on a case by case basis.”

The school did give Candace Cheyenne’s diploma, but she still wants her name to be read aloud with her classmates.

“It’s a validation for all the hard work she put in over the years, everything she worked hard for, everything she did, the connections that she made, the lives she impacted while she was alive,” Mikkelson said.

Graduation is Friday, May 26. A plant will be onstage with a statement made that it is in memory of all classmates who have been lost, but are not forgotten. The yearbook has two pages dedicated to three students who would have graduated this year.

Jennifer Mayerle

  1. I was at a graduation in AZ and they read off the names, people clapped and then moved on, it was not a big deal, it took like 10 seconds, just do it!!