Inspiring stories: Graduations, a virtual spelling bee and a 106-year-old coronavirus survivor that brought a smile to our faces this week

Texas principal Scott Rudes (R) hand-delivered diplomas to the homes of all 240 graduating seniors. (Photo: Courtesy of Booker T. Washington HSPVA)

Despite evolving challenges and hardships during a difficult time, people across the country are finding reasons to smile, whether it be from celebrating educational milestones or the journey to health by an elder relative affected by the coronavirus. Whatever the reason may be, however, individuals continue to prove their resilience and their commitment to finding ways to remain joyful during otherwise distressing times. Even better, they’re sharing their stories.

Single mom surprises son with backyard college graduation ceremony

Students across the globe have missed out on milestones in their educational experiences throughout the past few months as a result of the coronavirus. But when it came time for Derrick Williams’s college graduation from Baylor University, his mother, Ayanna Taum, wouldn’t let him miss out on it. Tatum is a single mother-of-two who lived on campus with her children during her own college years and struggled to get herself in a stable situation after Hurricane Katrina left the New Orleans-based family homeless. The opportunity to see her son, Williams, walk across the stage at graduation after all of the hardships, she says, “was giving me hope, something to finally smile about.” The ceremony, complete with a commencement speaker and stage, took place right in the family’s backyard and was memorable for all involved. However, it won’t be the last as Williams is headed to medical school.

High school holds drive-through graduation at Daytona International Speedway

The cancelation of a traditional graduation ceremony left administrators at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast, Fla. at a loss for how they would do a sentimental send-off for its senior class. When they secured the Daytona International Speedway as a safe and convenient venue for a drive-through ceremony, however, it seemed that any other ceremony wouldn’t suffice. All 393 graduates drove to the speedway to do a victory lap around the track before parking and stepping out for the purposes of throwing their caps in the air. “The speedway really stepped up and provided this wonderful opportunity for our students,” the school’s principal Jeff Reaves tells Yahoo Life. “It was fabulous.”

High school principal drives 1,750 miles to hand-deliver diplomas to 240 seniors

Texas principal Scott Rudes (R) hand-delivered diplomas to the homes of all 240 graduating seniors. (Photo: Courtesy of Booker T. Washington HSPVA)

A principal in Dallas, Texas wasn’t able to secure a venue for a safe ceremony for the graduating senior class of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, so he decided to stop by the homes of all 240 seniors to deliver diplomas. “We took it a day at a time and a mile at a time,” principal Scott Rudes tells Yahoo Life. “Each stop was memorable and brought joy to people’s faces.”

Middle school student wins online spelling bee after national competition is canceled

Navneeth Murali went on to win SpellPundit's first national online spelling bee. (Photo: Navneeth Murali)

Navneeth Murali, 14, of Edison, N.J., might not have been missing out on his graduation, but he was still heartbroken at the cancelation of the annual Scripps’s National Spelling Bee competition. “[We] have spent thousands of hours preparing for this competition and made so many sacrifices along the way,” he tells Yahoo Life. So, he took the work that he had put into preparing to be onstage for the spelling bee and put it toward winning the national title from home. “Virtual spelling bees are a different experience, but they offer spellers the opportunity to compete against the nation’s best, while at home,” Murali says of the SpellPundit Online National Spelling Bee, which he won in front of an audience on Facebook Live.

106-year-old woman survives coronavirus

After having survived the 1918 influenza pandemic, Prohibition, the Great Depression and two world wars, 106-year-old Rose Bromberg can now tell people that she’s also survived the coronavirus after having been diagnosed with the illness in late April. The family tells Yahoo Life that they were devastated by the news and expected the worst at times. However, they knew that Bromberg would be hard to defeat. “She broke her hip at 102 and recovered. She’s a survivor,” her son tells Yahoo Life. Now, after recovering from COVID-19, Bromberg is just the same as before. “She gets dressed every day with makeup, jewelry, lipstick,” her son says. “She’s outgoing, funny, always a party-type person.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want daily lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.