International ELP graduates honored

Class speaker O. Eric Gama at the podium.

Class speaker Eric Gama calls on classmates to be "ambassadors of Perkins." Photo Credit: Anna Miller

May 14, 2014

The Educational Leadership Program (ELP) Class of 2014 was honored for their hard work and dedication to special education during a commencement ceremony May 22.

In all, 14 graduates from 11 countries earned diplomas, capping six to nine months of immersive study, advanced training and leadership development at Perkins School for the Blind.

The ceremony featured a commencement address from Lord Colin Low, president of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and a member of the United Kingdom's House of Lords.

Low lauded Perkins as "a mecca among institutions dedicated to the education of the blind." He urged the graduates to become leaders and advocates for people who are blind in their home countries.

"You who are graduating today, having had the rare privilege of drinking at the Perkins well for nearly a year, are an elite core among educators of the blind," said Low. “You thus take your place as members of the advance guard of Perkins (ELP) alumni. This gives you a rare opportunity and also bestows upon you a special trust."

Class speaker Eric Gama of South Africa called on his classmates to work passionately and to always strive to help those with visual impairment, multiple disabilities and deafblindness.

“As ELPs we must stand up and make sure we make life easier and better for this vulnerable group of people," said Gama, who is blind. “You came to Perkins as representatives of your different countries. When you go back now, be ambassadors of Perkins."

Perkins International Director Dr. W. Aubrey Webson thanked the graduates for their sacrifices, acknowledging the challenges that come with leaving their families and jobs for nearly a year. As ELP graduates, Webson said they are now “part of the Perkins family."

"We at Perkins never say goodbye," he said. “It's more like, 'See you later.' We believe that together we can change so much. We believe that there are endless possibilities for you."

The Class of 2014 joins a distinguished group of more than 250 past ELP graduates. Members of this year's class hail from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.