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Senior class gives Nigerian classmate incredible graduation gift

Student has heartwarming reunion after four years away from home

The students and faculty at John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland, can teach us all a thing or two about lending a helping hand.

The senior class gave their classmate Nigerian standout Michael Tertsea the biggest surprise of his life. They picked up the tab for a plane ticket and visa – $1,763 – to have his mother, Felicia Ikpum, attend his graduation this week. It was her first plane trip.

Tertsea said it was the greatest moment of his life.

The 6-foot-10 baller had dreams of playing basketball and studying in the United States. So four years ago, he left his family to head to John Carroll.

Tertsea’s mother was waiting for him to cross the stage and receive his high school diploma.

“I’m so happy to be here,” his mother told ABC2 News in Baltimore. “To see my son after four years is a good thing to be here. He’s big – bigger, taller.”

“I was really, really surprised,” Tertsea told the station. “I didn’t expect my friends and classmates to extend this helping hand.”

The senior class did not have all the money they needed to fulfill their commitment, but a few teachers and coaches pitched in to help raise the rest of the funds – $500. In one hour, they reportedly had what they needed to make Tertsea’s graduation day a moment he will never forget.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.