Their goals are as different as their backgrounds.
Li GuoQing wants to start a pre-school program in China. Ashraf Karimi is on a mission to introduce deafblind education in Iran. Veronica Angelino plans to improve early intervention services in Argentina for children with multiple disabilities.
But on May 25, they gathered with their classmates on a stage to celebrate what they have in common – the honor of graduating from the Educational Leadership Program (ELP) at Perkins School for the Blind.
At the commencement ceremony, held in Perkins’ historic Dwight Hall, 13 members of the ELP Class of 2016 were awarded diplomas for completing nine months of study in the education of children who are blind with multiple disabilities. The event was attended by more than 100 people, including teachers, students and staffers, as well as proud family members from around the world.
The graduates, who work as teachers of the visually impaired or in related fields, will now return to their home countries to improve schools and programs for children who are blind with additional disabilities. Two other classmates completed a shorter six-month program in February.
Keynote Speaker Corinne Grousbeck, chair of the Perkins Board of Trustees, lauded the graduates for what they brought to Perkins, and for what they’ll accomplish when they return home.
“You have added so much to the richness of the culture of our campus,” she said. “Our teachers, aides and students all benefited enormously from your presence. Take pride in knowing that you will make a difference in the lives of everyone you touch, and everyone they touch, and so on and so on, into the future.”
Mike Delaney, executive director of Perkins International, acknowledged the formidable challenge facing the graduates – the 46 million children and young adults who are visually impaired around the world, most of whom don’t attend school.
“We need you to be bold and innovative, precisely the skills you have already proven,” he said. “We need you to influence your organizations, your schools, your education ministries and your governments. We know you can do it.”
Class speaker Andrea Richards from the Caribbean nation of Antigua spoke humorously about the culture shock ELP participants faced when they came to Perkins and the “mad fun” they had exploring New England on their days off.
She also spoke movingly about the responsibility she shared with her classmates to “our students, our community and to our world” when they leave Perkins.
“The challenge is to take this knowledge, the connections made, our unique passions and this diploma, and do something relevant and committed with it,” she said. “We wanted to make a difference and this is our golden opportunity.”
Members of the ELP Class of 2016 came to Perkins from 15 nations spanning the globe: Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Moldova, Nepal, Philippines, St. Lucia and Vietnam.