05/22/2015 10:49 EDT | Updated 05/22/2015 10:59 EDT

Mom Katherine Jackson Graduates In Son's Place After Fatal Car Crash

After her son was killed in a car crash days before his graduation, Katherine Jackson donned his cap and gown to accept his diploma during an emotional ceremony.

“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” Jackson said. “I’m going to be his legs and he’s going to be my wings and we’re going to go up there and get our diploma.”

Aaron Dunigan, 18, was the star quarterback at Illinois’ Thornton Fractional North High School. He was killed in a car crash last Saturday as he was heading home from prom with two other classmates. The car that he was a passenger in crossed a median, crashing into another vehicle and killing its driver, 56-year-old Juan Rivera.

After being tested, David Peden, who was driving the vehicle Dunigan was in, was found to have marijuana in his system. He is now being charged with DUI causing death and reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, Chicago Tribune reports.

During the graduation ceremony on Wednesday, friends and family mourned the loss of Dunigan, who was set to play football for Southern Illinois University this fall. His mother, Jackson, wore his blue cap and gown and she crossed the stage to accept his diploma. Jackson was joined by Dunigan’s father, who wore a black shirt with his son’s name and football number on the back.

“This has to be a moment of celebration and learning,” school district superintendent Greg Williams said at the ceremony. “Let their incident not be in vain. Be safe.”

The incident also left Dungian’s friend Mike Crowter injured. He arrived at graduation in a wheelchair.

After the ceremony, Jackson hugged and cried with her son’s classmates. “My son has left a piece of him inside all of them,” she said. “And every time I hug one of them, I get a little piece of my baby back.”

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