Parkland, Florida CNN —  

Nearly four months after the Parkland, Florida, community was devastated by a deadly school shooting, seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gathered on Sunday to receive their diplomas.

The community anticipated a bittersweet occasion, as students – dressed in maroon caps and gowns – and teachers planned to honor the 17 students and faculty killed, including four seniors who would have graduated today.

On Sunday morning, Jeff Foster, the AP Government teacher and grand marshal of the graduation, took to Twitter to let his students know they had his support.

“Today is going to be emotional,” he wrote. “Just know that I will always be there for you. I love you.”

From left: Meadow Pollack, Carmen Schentrup, Nicholas Dworet and Joaquin Oliver. Each of them would have been graduating on Sunday.
Obtained by CNN
From left: Meadow Pollack, Carmen Schentrup, Nicholas Dworet and Joaquin Oliver. Each of them would have been graduating on Sunday.

Ahead of the ceremony at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, MSD teacher Darren Levine told CNN the mood was somber.

“There’s definitely a solemn feel mixed with joy, which is weird,” Levine said.

During the ceremony, the names of each of the deceased seniors were called, and their family members and close friends came forward to accept their diplomas.

The family of Joaquin Oliver, one of the students killed when a gunman stormed the school on February 14, planned to attend the ceremony. Joaquin’s parents received his diploma in his place.

It was an emotional scene, according to Levine. Joaquin’s father, Manuel Oliver, ran up the aisle between the graduating students to loud cheers and applause as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Meanwhile, his mother wore a yellow shirt that read, “This should be my son.”

Students attend graduation at the BB&T Center on Sunday, June 3, 2018.
Stephen Feureman
Students attend graduation at the BB&T Center on Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Hunter Pollack, brother of victim Meadow Pollack, received his sister’s diploma in her stead.

Levine told CNN some attendees shed tears as students, holding hands, sang “Shine,” a song written by MSD students in the aftermath of the shooting.

Another teacher told CNN the senior class president, Julia Cordover, gave an emotional speech encouraging classmates to use their votes to change the world.

The ceremony also honored the three faculty members killed in the shooting. Representatives for teacher Scott Beigel, Coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon each accepted a statue of an eagle in their honor.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Graduation AP Government teacher and graduation Grand Marshall Jeff Foster is pictured with Emma Gonzalez and Chris Grady.
Jeff Foster
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Graduation AP Government teacher and graduation Grand Marshall Jeff Foster is pictured with Emma Gonzalez and Chris Grady.

School faculty had teased the fact that a special guest would speak at the ceremony, and students and their families were eventually surprised by Jimmy Fallon, host of the “Tonight Show.” Like the students, Fallon wore a sash that read, “MSD Strong.”

A surprise guest

“Today you’re graduating from high school,” he said, according to videos posted to social media and shared with CNN. “You should feel incredibly proud of yourselves. That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels – or your yannys.”

Fallon also thanked the class for their “courage” and “bravery.”

Some attendees called attention to gun violence

Some of the students decorated the slates of their caps with homages to their lost friends.

One of Meadow’s best friends, Carley Ogozaly, decorated her cap with a picture of Meadow and the words, “We are still in this together.”