Remembering Wesley

Special ceremony will be held for slain teen on what would have been his high school graduation day.

Wesley Gennings was an active athlete and member of the Decatur High School community, well-loved by friends, family and teachers.

Saturday, June 16, was supposed to be the day he would graduate with his fellow classmates, said his mother, Leilani Gennings.

His family will not have that opportunity to celebrate this milestone with him. Two years ago, 16-year-old Wesley was fatally shot during an alleged attempted robbery by Federal Way resident Michael Rogers and Diante Pellem, who were ages 16 and 14, respectively, at the time of the murder. The teens have been charged as adults in the case and are awaiting trial.

Leilani Gennings, nicknamed “Momma G” by friends of the slain teen, said she will never get over the loss of her only child. She’s happy to have a ceremony before Decatur’s graduation to honor him.

“I figured, this is not what I really really wanted overall, but I’ve got more than what I came in with,” she said.

The ceremony will take place at the Tacoma Dome in a separate room where Gennings will wear a cap and gown and receive a certificate of attendance for Wesley.

“It will be an emotional time, but I’m overwhelmed but extremely happy that I’ve gotten as far as I have,” she said.

This agreement comes after months of back and forth between Gennings and Federal Way Public Schools.

Originally, Gennings wanted to walk in Decatur’s graduation ceremony with the rest of what would have been Wesley’s class. Because Wesley was a sophomore when he died and did not have enough credits to graduate, the school board was not able to make that accommodation.

Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Tammy Campbell said the district is happy to help honor Wesley with the alternate ceremony.

“We look forward to celebrating Wesley’s years in Federal Way Public Schools and feel honored to be a part of this ceremony with his family,” Campbell said.

Gennings said Wesley was her miracle baby because she was told she was unable to have children. Born premature and not breathing, doctors were able to save Wesley’s and Gennings’ lives, though they both remained in intensive care for a few days after his birth.

He was a good kid, always offering a helping hand to those who needed it, his mother said.

“He was always trying to lend a hand, pick you up, take you here, feed you, bring you home because you had no place to sleep, give you the shoes off his feet,” Gennings said. “That’s the type of kid he was… I think I did a good job raising him, and I just wasn’t finished.”

She said she doesn’t think she’ll ever have closure. Some days are harder than others.

“I’ll never accept the fact that he’s gone… I didn’t see this in my life,” she said.

But through it all, she said she can still feel Wesley pushing her to keep going when the reality hits her a little harder.

Gennings said even though those accused in his son’s death are set to go to trial, that won’t provide closure.

“Those parents will see their kid again,” she said. “They’ll have happy endings, holidays, probably grandchildren, maybe even some marriages. I won’t ever get that opportunity to have any of those because they made that choice for me when they chose to take my child.”