TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Graduation ceremonies were made even more special for two Leon County students who lost loved ones that worked for the Leon County Sheriff's Office.
After losing his father two years ago, Jakob Nowak graduated from Lincoln High School.
Saturday, those who knew his father, correctional deputy Michael "Andy" Nowak, showed up to support Jakob as he walked across the stage - marking a major milestone.
Jakob's father died due to complications from COVID-19 in August of 2021.
Some deputies who worked with Andy were there during the graduation ceremony at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to celebrate Jakob.
Jakob told ABC 27 how it felt to have their support.
"It's an amazing feeling, you know, knowing you have people behind you and support you almost two years after the tragic event. I really appreciate it," Jakob said.
ABC 27 spoke with Sergeant Dave Teems about what it meant to support Jakob.
"I'm very proud. I know Jacob worked hard, he's a great wrestler, he's a great guy, and just to be able to see him walk across the stage and know that I can be here to represent Andrew is amazing," Teems said.
The sheriff's office was in attendance for the graduation of Hunter Pittman, who is the stepson of Deputy Chris Smith, who died in the line of duty in 2014.
Pittman graduated from Florida State University School High School on Friday night at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center with several deputies supporting him as he walked across the stage.
Teems noted what it means to support families of fallen law enforcement officers.
"Every day, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line and unfortunately we are in situations where we lose our lives. It's important for those families to know when they make the ultimate sacrifice that their agency and the people who work with them haven't forgotten about them," Teems said.