Dalton High School will dismiss at 1 p.m. Friday so students and faculty may attend funeral services for English teacher Demera Robinson, the school system said Thursday afternoon.
Robinson was killed shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday when her SUV struck the rear of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 75 near the Rocky Face exit, according to the Georgia Highway Patrol.
Some of her students said Robinson was like a mom to them.
Her classroom was cozy like a home, students said. While sharing English lessons, she dispensed hugs and desk-side counseling. She cheered students for successes and rallied classmates to prop up struggling friends.
Three students who studied under Robinson said Wednesday they are committed to carrying on one big dream they share with their deceased teacher.
"We talked so much during freshman and sophomore years about her being there to watch us graduate, and I don't want to even think about her not being there," said 18-year-old Ike Smith.
Robinson was part of a mentor program -- Advancement Via Individual Determination -- designed for students who could be the first generation in their families to graduate from high school and go on to college.
The first set of Dalton High's AVID students will graduate this spring. Most are planning to go to college in the fall, Associate Principal Steve Bartoo said.
Robinson's students said their ambition for that goal is renewed. They felt a strong bond with her and they wanted to achieve great things because of her high expectations.
"We would do anything to make her happy, in this life or the next, and I would never want her to be sad, so, of course, I'm going to graduate," Smith said.
For Robinson, getting her students graduated and into college "was what she was always working for," said Naomi Hurtado, 17.
"If one of us failed, she said we all failed. So we all had to keep each other on the right track like a family."
Robinson also was as an adviser to the student council and organized the prom each year, among other activities.
A Demera Robinson Memorial Scholarship has been formed. To donate, send contributions to Dalton High School, 1500 Manly St., Dalton, GA 30720.
"I'm still in shock," said Abigail Rodriguez, 17. "I don't like even thinking about her not being there. I don't think we're going to be able to go back to her classroom for a long time."
Teachers will miss her, too, said Melissa Quick, who taught alongside Robinson for eight years.
Together, the women would hang decorations for the prom. Before each prom, they'd buy formal wear together and do each other's hair and make-up.
"She was my date to prom for eight years," Quick said. "I don't know how I'm going to get through it this year. Her absence is going to be noticed so much because she was so involved in everything."
Robinson's funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Friday at Dalton First Presbyterian Church. The family will take visitors today after 5 p.m. at Julian Peeples Funeral Home in Rocky Face.