It may have been pouring rain outside, but inside Ward Gym on the campus of the , every graduate had his or her day in the sun.
It was an intimate ceremony with each graduate individually recognized, as befitting the class of 30 students who hailed from all over Connecticut as well as New York and Massachusetts. The graduating class also included two students from Dubai, UAE, but they had to miss the ceremony to return to their home country.
However, as personal as the ceremony was to the graduates, it also attracted Connecticut’s top elected officials, as both Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman spoke at the school’s 194th Commencement Exercise.
Gov. Malloy, who officially acknowledges a lifelong struggle with dyslexia, clearly identified with the ASD graduates, whom he praised as “individuals who have demonstrated their abilities in very trying circumstances.”
Speaking slowly, with a sign language interpreter translating his words, Malloy recounted the story of his own childhood struggles to learn and overcome severe physical disabilities and educational challenges. “I was dismissed as someone from whom not much could be expected,” Malloy said.
He urged the graduates, “Based on what you’ve learned at this great school and based on your ability to persevere, you will be successful…don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do exactly what you want to do…you will accomplish your dream.”
Malloy concluded his address by telling the graduates that, “This is greatness, this expresses the possibility for all of our children, regardless of hearing, or sight, or whatever…I understand that I am in a room full of winners.”
Malloy received a standing ovation – as did all the subsequent speakers – which included an eruption of clapping as well as hands gesturing in the sign language word for applause.
Lt. Gov. Wyman, a longtime supporter of ASD, spoke briefly, telling the graduates, “I’m just here to say thank you, keep up the good work, and keep pushing, because you can be what you want to be.”
Class speakers Kennialisse Rolon and Richard Graham each addressed the audience in sign language, with a recording providing voiceover in the background.
Rolon gave thanks to those who had supported her along the way, and gave a “special thank you to my mom. She has always been there to help me solve my problems.”
Graham brought along a backpack full of symbolic items – including an elementary school photo, a basketball, a shirt with the letters DYCC from the Deaf Youth Camp of Color, and a bouquet of flowers for his mother.
“We’re happy because we have this new life ahead of us and at the same time we’re sad because we’re leaving this place,” Graham told his fellow graduates.
Both Rolon and Graham later received the Headmaster’s Award.
Dr. Gerard Buckley, President of the Rochester Institute of Technology for National Technical Institute for the Deaf, was the keynote commencement speaker. He gave the graduates advice in the form of text message abbreviations for the future, and said that he himself was a WIP (work in progress).
“ASD was the first school for the deaf in America, and has a proud tradition of producing leaders…please follow this tradition,” he urged the class of 2011.
The Class of 2011:
Hazza Adbulla Mohammed Abdulla Ali Al Baloushi, Dubai, UAE
Saeed Abdulla Mohammed Abdulla Ali Al Baloushi, Dubai, UAE
*Vilmaire Aviles-Lopez, New Britain, CT
*William E. Beaumont, III, Howard Beach, NY
Tiffany Nicole Bryant, Brooklyn, NY
Antonio Paul DosSantos, Jr., Wolcott, CT
*William James Fallon, Lowell, MA
*Richard Anthony Graham, Windsor, CT
*Kangni He, Stamford, CT
Jessica Marie Hrubienski, Windsor, CT
Dennis Bartholomew Killorin, Southborough, MA
John Ward Garnier Lajoie, Brooklyn, CT
*Hilma A. Lopez, Haverstraw, NY
Wade Emery McLaughlin, Thomaston, CT
*Nakia Ebony Lewis Nelson, Long Beach, NY
Kristina Victoria Norton, Meriden, CT
*Tenzin Passang Palber, Brooklyn, NY
*Narelis Perez, Waterbury, CT
*Hector Wilson Rivera, New Haven, CT
Raychan Daniel Rivera, Waterbury, CT
*Kennialisse Rolon, Springfield, MA
Jose Orlando Roman, New Haven, CT
*Joel Romero, Newington, CT
Sophia Nicole Silva, New Haven, CT
Dinah Angela Steele, Hartford, CT
Demetrice Antrion Thompson, Waterbury, CT
*Lizbeth Jamie Toledo, Yonkers, NY
Alexzandra Marie Vega, Staten Island, NY
Kaile Whetstone, Bronx, NY
*Gina Marie Woods, Stonington, CT
* Students earning Honors