Waiting in her cap and gown for the 2016 commencement ceremony to begin, graduate Kristina Navarro found it hard to sit still.
“I’m so excited!” she exclaimed, fiddling with the blue and white tassel on her graduation cap.
She wasn’t the only one. Perkins’ Dwight Hall was overflowing with parents, teachers and staff gathered to show their support for the Class of 2016. As the 12 graduates made their way proudly to the stage, the room erupted in camera flashes and cheers, with a few high-fives mixed in.
“We’re all very proud of each of you,” said Superintendent Ed Bosso. “Be happy, dream big and embrace all that every day has to offer.”
The audience was treated to several performances by the Perkins Secondary Program Chorus and Chamber Singers, and heard words of advice from commencement speaker Raymond Hepper, a Perkins board member who works as the general counsel at ISO New England.
Hepper, who has been blind since birth, shared a memory of his own high school braille teacher.
“I can honestly say at that time I didn’t like her very much [because] she made me work really hard,” he said with a laugh. “Now I thank her every day for pushing me and making me realize what I can do.”
Two members of the senior class delivered remarks, including Ashley Riva, a student in the Deafblind Program, who delivered her speech using sign language.
“I have made so many memories at Perkins like having fun and teasing with my friends and staff,” she said. “To the Class of 2016: always try new things, never give up and find your dream job.”
Senior Class President Brendan Flynn spoke of the many opportunities he received as a student at Perkins, including vocational training that prepared him for life in the real world. Being able to play sports and participate in student council helped him build confidence and make new friends, he said.
“I came here from a public school and the change was like night and day,” he said. “In my old school, I felt left out a lot, but at Perkins I feel totally accepted.”
As Bosso read off the names of all 12 graduates, Perkins Board Chair Corinne Grousbeck presented each student with a diploma or certificate of achievement. Several students also received diplomas from superintendents in their hometown school districts, who traveled to Perkins for the event.
Before leaving the stage and celebrating with loved ones, the graduates heard a final word of advice from Grousbeck, who urged them to continue advocating for the opportunities they deserve.
“When you leave here today I want you to go out and not let anyone misjudge you, not let anyone think there’s anything you can’t do,” she said. “I want you to lean in and tell them that you have a voice. You are here and you are proud and you are capable and you want the same chances as everybody else. If you can do that, I promise you’re going to succeed.”