Dwight Hall was a sea of smiles and camera flashes as members of the Class of 2014 celebrated the culmination of their Perkins School for the Blind journey at the annual Commencement Ceremony in June.
"Looking at you all today I can't help but feel proud," said Board of Trustees Chair Fred Clifford. "You haven't just fulfilled your academic challenges – you've made friends, produced films, spoken at the State House, hosted radio shows, performed in the chorus and graced us with all your laughter, energy and wit."
The 19 graduates cheered loudly after performances by the Secondary Program Chorus and Chamber Singers, and listened attentively as Commencement speaker Mike Cataruzolo, a 55-year Perkins employee and current manager of volunteer services, imparted words of advice.
"Think of 10 things that you like about yourself every night," Cataruzolo said. "Don't downgrade yourself, be positive. Those are just some of the building blocks that will change your life. I know they changed my life."
Senior Class Speaker Campbell Grousbeck marveled at the distance he and his classmates had traveled during their time at Perkins. As a preschooler in the Early Learning Center, he joked, he was devastated by his lack of singing ability. With the help of his teachers, Campbell learned to sing, joined the chorus and performed with The Family Stone at the Perkins Possibilities Gala.
"I know my fellow graduates have their own stories about personal challenges and triumphs," he said. "But what all these stories have in common is that all of you were with us all the way. For that, we say, 'Thank you.'"
As President and CEO Dave Power read off the names of the graduates, many were joined on stage by former teachers and administrators as parents snapped photographs and cheered. After the ceremony, festivities continued in the Perkins Museum, where graduates mingled with family and friends. For many students, the day was both exciting and bittersweet.
"I'm happy, but sad to be leaving Perkins," said Renzo Rios-Nino, who will be living closer to his family post-graduation.
Kymberlee Leighton, who ran track at Perkins and was awarded the Carl H. Wadell Memorial Prize for Girls' Athletics, agreed.
"I'm excited and I'm nervous," she said. "But I've learned so much here that I'm going to take with me."
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