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From the moment the graduates marched into the auditorium on Saturday, dressed in their caps and gowns and accompanied by family members to guide them, the pride was evident on their faces.
It was also clearly a day long in the making. The four graduates of St. Coletta’s, all 22-years-old, completed the school’s program for people ages 6 to 22 with special needs. One of the graduates attended the school for 14 years.
The traditional graduation advice was given with a slight twist. Jo Ann Simons, president and CEO of St. Coletta and Cardinal Cushing Schools of Massachusetts, encouraged graduates to love their friends, listen to their family, always call if they are going to be late, and never forget gloves in winter.
“While it was our job to teach and guide you, it was also our job to learn from you. You have been our teachers,” Simons told them.
Commencement speaker Nicholas Santacroce, a faculty member of the school, recalled stories having faith in himself, the graduates, and the gift of special education for everyone involved.
“If we look beyond the physical, emotional, and mental disabilities, we can see the very essence of their souls,” Santacroce said. “There is joy, laughter, honesty, innocence and love in their souls.”
All of those traits were clear when each name was called and the graduates were brought on stage to receive their certificates. They smiled from ear to ear, clapped for themselves and each other along with the audience, and for some, basked in the moment, not wanting to leave the stage.