Cherokee students donate to family of late senior

May 14, 2012 5:43:59 AM PDT
The Cherokee class of 2012 has worked for the past four years raising approximately $4,000 for a special night that will finally arrive later this month -- graduation for the high school seniors.

Those dollars were raised to fund activities for Project Graduation, a supervised all-night party for the graduates.

Then on Sunday morning, May 6, classmate Payten Vaughn was killed in an automobile accident near Cherokee, a San Saba County community of about 300 residents between Llano and San Saba. Payten was planning to graduate May 25 with 11 other students.

Instead of paying for a graduation party, the seniors decided that all of the funds the raised should be donated to the Vaughn family. The seniors met the day of the accident and voted to do so.

Dan Cox, director of development of the Cherokee Home for Children, said the family did not have life insurance on Payten and could not afford the funeral. Some $1,800 went to pay for the service, and the seniors decided the balance of the Project Graduation fund could be donated to the family so they could afford to take additional time off of work in order to grieve.

Five of the 11 remaining graduating seniors are children who are residents of the Cherokee Home for Children, Cox said. The home is a residential facility for children who are victims of family distress and needing an alternative place to live during the time of their family's crisis.

Cox said for a majority of these children from the home, their graduation presents would have come from the Project Graduation account.

Austin Avenue Church of Christ in Brownwood oversees the Cherokee Home for Children, Cox said.

"Cherokee is proud of these seniors who put others in front of themselves," Cox said, "even if it meant sacrificing one of the best nights of their lives."

Cherokee is about 90 miles northwest of Austin.

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