Friday, May 30, 2014, had long been circled on Michelle Metje’s calender.

The importance of the day never changed, though painfully the circumstances did.

Metje’s son Corey Laykovich, would have been among the blue-robed Wright Career College graduates Friday at Unity Temple on the Plaza. He was a semester shy of earning his associate’s degree when he was stabbed in the early morning hours of July 27, 2013, near his home on the 3900 block of Crackerneck Road in Independence and died the next day.

Metje, who taught psychology, sociology and critical thinking at Wright, had given her two week’s notice just a couple days earlier, intending to take a job with the Kansas City School District. Finishing her tenure at Wright proved too painful a prospect, though.

But she was at Friday’s graduation ceremony with some of her family, as Wright presented her with Corey’s Honorary Associates in Applied Science Degree. Laykovich, a 2009 Blue Springs High School graduate who was 22 at the time of his murder, had designs on being a personal computer technician. The Wright administration also presented her with a check for $2,000 as a donation for the foundation in Corey’s name.

Metje said she would have been at Unity Temple regardless.

“I’d already decided because my students that were graduating, I wanted to be there for their support,” she said.

However, she noted, this past year the students have been part of her support network, as well as the faculty.

Several classmates attended Laykovich’s funeral, and Metje said she remembers telling them “Because he can’t, you’ll have to finish.”

“Every single one of them did, and two of them were valedictorians,” she said. “I’m very, very proud of them.”

Before the graduates were announced, Associate Campus Director J. Preston Schell talked about Laykovich before calling Metje to the stage.

“If you didn’t take a class with him, chances are you took a class from his mother,” Schell said. “They were part of the Wright Career College family, and if he was still alive, he’d be walking today.

“It was a place where he felt he belonged.”

Family and faculty friends, many of whom are on the board of directors for the recently established Corey’s Network, a support system for families of murder victims, joined Metje up front as she received the honorary degree and donation.