STOCKTON (CBS13) – Former criminal justice instructor Nancy Brakensiek was just as surprised as her students when Heald College announced it was closing.

“I was getting text messages, panicked Facebook messages, ‘What are we hearing about our school closing, I hadn’t even got an email yet?’” Brakensiek said.

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With a tight connection to her students, she came up with a plan.

“Originally I decided I was going to hold a graduation for just my criminal justice students,” Brakensiek said.

But that plan quickly took off. Now with the help of another faculty member, the graduation has grown.

“He took it and found a location large enough to house all of our graduates, so we’re planning a graduation for all April 2015 graduates at the Stockton campus,” Brakensiek said.

The payoff and what staff calls an appropriate sendoff, given the circumstances.

“I had a lot of students that this was their last quarter,” Brakensiek said.

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Brakensiek says many of the students were also the first in their family to go to college.

“I can help give them a ceremony, the recognition with giving a graduation a ceremony, a cap and gown and speeches,” Brakensiek said.

All of the disappointment has been replaced, for now, with the excitement for this upcoming celebration.

“The more faculty and people that are hearing about it from Stockton campus, the more people are chiming in,” Brakensiek said “I’ll be there to help at graduation; I’ll be there to help our students.”

It will be a moment in the spotlight for students whose education has been left in limbo.

“Just because the school closed and left them without a graduation doesn’t mean they don’t deserve one.”

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The ceremony is set for Saturday, May 23 at the First Baptist Church in Lodi.