Graduation ceremony emotional, intimate

May 21, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- With only 23 graduates, Thursday's graduation ceremony for Marshall Street School and the Washington County Job Development Program was emotional and intimate, with teachers and paraprofessionals sharing stories about the trials and triumphs experienced by special-needs students they have worked with, in some cases, for many years.

During the ceremony at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater, acting principal and master of ceremonies Gael Butcher read biographies of each student, including their work experiences, plans for the future and reflections on graduation.

Their goals ranged from getting their own apartments to dreams such as Matthew Adams Longanecker's to someday "buy a home on a mountain" and find "a high-paying job related to lawn care."

At least two students said they hoped to take classes at Hagerstown Community College.

The students also used the opportunity to thank their teachers, the school staff and their families.

Job Development Program Graduate Joshua David Harris of Boonsboro thanked his dad for teaching him how to drive a lawn mower, his sister for taking him to Hersheypark, and his mom for getting him out of bed in the mornings.


"We would not be here if we had not had your love and support," Job Development Program graduate Joseph Lampasona told family members in his farewell speech.

Other student speakers included Corrina Louise Reeder, who said she would miss her classmates but was excited to graduate, and Dustin Robin Carr, who said he was glad he decided to complete the Job Development Program.

"Now the door to this experience is closing, but I am ready for a new door to open," Carr said.

Graduate Justin Armstrong, who gave a welcome speech, said the Job Development Program had given him good work skills.

"We were taught how to be confident and independent as possible," Armstrong said. "This is definitely true for me."

The keynote speaker was Meg Grigal, an expert on transition planning for students with disabilities and an advocate for access to postsecondary education.

Grigal encouraged the graduates to continue learning and to follow their dreams.

"I hope on this day of graduation, as you move forward, you listen to your heart," she said. "Listen to the person in your head who believes in you, because if you don't believe it, no one else will."

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