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Columbia County teen dies with COVID-19 days before start of senior year, family says

Mother says 17-year-old wanted to attend University of Florida, become a surgeon

A 17-year-old Columbia High School student died from coronavirus-related complications days before the start of her senior year, her family told News4Jax.
A 17-year-old Columbia High School student died from coronavirus-related complications days before the start of her senior year, her family told News4Jax.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A 17-year-old Columbia High School student died from coronavirus-related complications days before the start of her senior year, her family told News4Jax.

Jo’Keria Graham’s mother said she wanted to attend the University of Florida and become a surgeon.

Those plans were cut short when she contracted COVID-19 shortly before the start of the school year.

Jaylen Brown, Graham’s brother, told Gainesville station WCJB that his sister was healthy and had not been vaccinated but did take other precautions, like wearing a mask.

Brown said her death was sudden and “just happened out of nowhere.”

“You honestly couldn’t tell that she was sick,” Brown told WCJB.

A 17-year-old Columbia High School student died from coronavirus-related complications days before the start of her senior year, her family told news station WCJB.
A 17-year-old Columbia High School student died from coronavirus-related complications days before the start of her senior year, her family told news station WCJB.

Brown described his sister as a thoughtful and caring person who would always help others. He said she was eager to return to school but knew she would miss the first day after contracting COVID-19.

“I left for college last Tuesday and I was telling her on the phone before I left, ‘Make sure you go to the senior picnic’. She was going to miss the senior breakfast because she had to quarantine for a couple more days. She was going to miss the first day of school, so I told her to make sure she goes to the senior picnic and attend prom....” Brown told WCJB.

Graham’s senior portraits were some of the last photos taken of her before she passed away.

The principal at Columbia High School said he got a cap and gown and gave it to Graham’s family and that the school will support them this year and will honor Graham on graduation night for the class of 2022.

“I’ve spoken to the mom multiple times throughout the week, just kind of letting her know we are thinking and praying for her and offering support,” Principal Trey Hosford told WJCB.

Columbia County students went back to school on Wednesday.

Graham’s mother is now battling COVID-19 herself.


About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.