NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Stephen F. Austin State University student is proudly wearing a new university class ring following a privately held ceremony. The Big Dip is a rite of passage for upper-class SFA students.
The ceremony was held in Dallas at a children's intensive care unit. In the audience was the student's greatest accomplishment, her 3-year-old daughter.
When a child faces a critical illness, most moms know their place is by their child's side. It's no different for Angel Simpson, a SFA student from Diboll whose daughter Brooke is fighting complications with brain cancer.
Jaylon Simpson knows her sister Angel is living up to her name.
"I guess I never realized how strong she was and how diligent she is," Jaylon Simpson said.
Two months ago, studies at SFA's School of Social Work were put aside when Brooke entered the ICU.
Angel missed The Big Dip where upper-class students obtain their school rings. Knowing her ambition is only sidelined, she still wanted a ring … if not for herself, for Brooke. A call was placed.
"I was really calling to see how I can get my ring filled and not attend the ceremony," Angel Simpson said.
Alumni Relations Assistant Director Heather Hawkins took that call. Upon learning Angel's situation, she and others arranged for a giving gesture.
"Because she was so focused on Brooke and her prognosis for so long and being a mom and mom mode, it was amazing to be able to help her focus on herself for a little bit," Hawkins said.
SFA President Dr. Baker Patillo traveled to Dallas to personally conduct a Big Dip ceremony. The significant observers were Brooke and her little sister.
"I was just in tears and crying on the phone because I couldn't believe that they were going to go to that extreme just for me," Angel Simpson said. "It really meant a lot."
"We didn't have a dry eye in the room," said Craig Turnage, the executive director of alumni relations. "We were so happy to be able to do that and be able to share that experience together as a Lumberjack family."
SFA's Social Work Chair Dr. Freddie Avant said often personal experiences shape the paths and performance of social workers. Angel wants to apply that to herself.
"I'm now pursuing my masters because I want to be a clinical social worker and work with cancer patients," Angel Simpson said.
Along the way she sets examples for others.
"I'm proud to call her my big sister," Jaylon Simpson said with a chuckle.
Angel Simpson told us her daughter Brooke may soon be moved into a regular room. She calls Brooke "her little fighter." The doctors believe Brooke's cancer is now Stage 4, but the family believes doctors do not have the final say.
A gofundme account titled hashtag TeamBrook Fund has been set up to help with medical expenses. Click here for the link.