Brooklyn Center Students Remember Slain 2020 Grad at Commencement
There was a lot of excitement Wednesday night as the Brooklyn Center High School class of 2021 celebrated their accomplishments at a graduation ceremony. The event not only recognized graduates from 2021, but 2020 too. The school also paid tribute to a 2020 graduate who was tragically killed.
Andre McNeal’s Brooklyn Park home is filled with memories of his daughter, Anaja Griffin-McNeal. His daughter was fatally shot in January while in college in Houston. She was 20 years old.
“She wanted to go into social work. She was bouncing between teaching and social work,” said McNeal.
This week, there was light after so much darkness. Anaja’s graduating class from 2020 got to participate in the 2021 graduation ceremony.
Anaja’s classmates remembered their friend while McNeal carried his daughter’s photo across the stage when her name was called.
“I’m actually happy they decided to do that because she really did look forward to it last year. So, I’m glad they can honor her in that way,” said Zakia Robbins-McNeal, Anaja’s stepmother.
Anaja’s legacy will live on through a scholarship in her name. A student who graduated on Wednesday will receive more than $4,000 for college.
Father Turns Anger Into Action
Andre McNeal refuses to let his daughter’s death consume him with bitterness. Instead, he wants to make sure another family doesn’t have to suffer the same type of tragedy. McNeal now teaches domestic violence prevention classes at a community center in Minneapolis.
“As much as I’m angry and furious and enraged with him, he’s got somebody who loves and cares about him, too. So, two families are destroyed when these acts of violence take place,” he said.
McNeal coped by starting the Doorstep Foundation, a nonprofit that works to mentor young boys.
“I never want them to perpetuate an act like this,” said McNeal.
While McNeal says he can’t bring Anaja back, memories of his daughter bring him to a better way forward.
“As a member of this community, I have to move forward in a way that shows that we can recover and that life does go on,” he said.