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TRENTON, Ga. — A day after their teacher died, three Dade County High School students received scholarships in her honor.

During the school's class night, an awards ceremony for the students who are graduating, Principal Josh Ingle and Superintendent Jan Harris announced the $500 scholarships as tribute to Sandy Bradley, who died Wednesday after a late-stage diagnosis of colon cancer. Bradley was a 25-year employee of the school system, most recently as a graduation coach for students at risk of not finishing high school.

"Mrs. Bradley inspired students to be their best and many graduated because of her influence and encouragement," Harris said during a speech in the school's gym. " Tonight we honor Ms. Sandy Bradley by honoring those she loved."

The scholarship went to three students with whom she had worked: Madeline Estes Martin, Tyler Tiffin and Taylor Cox, who had been one of Bradley's students in elementary school about nine years ago.

Bradley, 48, did not realize she had cancer until late March, her friends said. She had been feeling sharp pains and fevers when she went to the hospital. After her diagnosis, she did not return to school and only lived for about two months.

On May 18, she posted on Facebook that she knew her time was coming to an end.

"I am at peace," she wrote. "I know this is all part of God's plan. I have told my kids that I am the winner. My heart breaks for them as I can only imagine how hard it will be growing up without a Mom."

As a graduation coach, Bradley tried to steer students who appeared on a path toward dropping out. When students fell behind their peers, she created special schedules for them or allowed them to enroll in online classes. She would chat with them online throughout the day, said Josh Ingle, the Dade County High School Principal.

She was part of a team that helped increase the school's graduation rate to 95 percent. Even after she was diagnosed, Harris said, Bradley still touched base with students over the phone.

During his speech about the scholarship Thursday night, Ingle gripped the side of the lectern and paused a couple of times, regaining his composure.

He quoted the school's media specialist, Carissa Henry: "I've watched her care. I've watched her laugh. I have witnessed her work tirelessly to help her students, even when they didn't want her help, she stubbornly refused to sit back and give up on them."

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-755-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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