HERMANN, MO (KTVI) – Zack Ruediger was about to graduate from Hermann High School in Gasconade County. Just days before graduation, his father suddenly died.
"A blood clot broke loose and took him from the family," explained Ruediger.
Zack also lost his mother in 2012.
"It's made me grow up a lot faster then I think anyone should ever have to," said Ruediger.
That's why his fellow graduating seniors decided to do something special. As all 68 students received their diplomas, they handed their principal money. They wanted the money to go to Zack and his family.
Zack noticed everyone handing over cash, so he emptied his pockets. It wasn't until after graduation he was told the money was for him.
"I kind of felt gratitude towards everybody but embarrassed about what I did," said Ruediger.
His classmates were not surprised Zack wanted to donate.
"That's just like Zack," said classmate Jamie Gleeson. "He's really sweet and nice."
Another classmate recalled the moment went students clued Zack in on the surprise.
"Everyone just started cheering because we were really, really happy how much money we raised," said Kirsten Leimkuehler. "It's just really cool we had the opportunity to do that."
The deputy superintendent for the school district said students raised more than $800 and another $500 came from Zack's employer. He praised the class of 2014 for their act of kindness.
"When the time comes, they just step up each and every time," said Gary Leimkuehler. "It's just heartwarming."
It's tradition at Hermann High School for students to hand money to the principal as they graduate. The money is donated to charity. The 2014 class decided to surprise Zack by giving the money to his family.