When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, he was on the phone with a close friend, Rachel Jeantel. The pair had known each other since the second grade, and though Jeantel was clearly intelligent — she spoke three languages — she struggled with her education. Earlier, Trayvon had made her promise him that she would finish high school and collect her diploma.
On Friday, Rachel Jenteal — who gained national notoriety as the star witness in the trial of Trayvon Martin's admitted killer George Zimmerman — kept her promise to the slain 17-year-old.
Clad in cap and gown, Rachel Jeantel walked across the stage at William Turner Technical School and received her diploma. More than two years after the death of her longtime friend Trayvon Martin, and with the help of attorney Rod Vereen and national radio host Tom Joyner — who arranged and paid for three separate tutors for Rachel, the daughter of Haitian immigrants — Rachel Jeantel is now a high school graduate.
"I made it. I made it, Trayvon! Yeah, I did it baby," she said, diploma in hand.
Vereen said that after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Rachel Jenteal suffered severe emotional problems.
"She was stressed out and depressed. We actually had her evaluated and she was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and her having to participate as a material witness did not help her situation, it actually made it worse, but she overcame it," said the lawyer.
The mother of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton, was in the audience at the graduation ceremony.
"Her coming is like having Trayvon there saying, 'You did it. You proved people wrong,'" Jeantel said to Yahoo! News.
National attention was riveted in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, raising issues of race, gun rights, the controversial "stand your ground" law, and many other hot-button topics.
When Jeantel testified, she was widely ridiculed for her blunt, often slang-filled manner of responding to questions from Zimmerman's lawyer.
At one point, attorney Don West asked Jeantel if, in fact, she understood English — the then 17-year-old speaks English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
"I don't understand you," Jeantel replied. "I do understand English."
"They called her everything except the child of God," said Vereen. "Of course she was frustrated. It was like stepping into an arena, and you don't know the rules."
Rachel Jeantel said that she and Trayvon Martin were never romantically involved, but unlike the thousands of people she never met who judged her after her televised court appearance, Trayvon Martin accepted her as she was.
"He cared about you," Rachel Jeantel said of her slain friend Trayvon Martin. "That's a good human."