The Children's Institute Blog

The Day School at The Children’s Institute Celebrates its Graduating Class of 2017

Posted: Jun 09, 2017 by The Children's Institute

One loves his disco ball.

Another enjoys delivering newspapers to different classrooms.

A third is proud of her puppy, Bentley.

On Thursday, though, they were more than individuals with unique tastes; they were graduates – freshly minted members of the Class of 2017.

The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh’s Day School held a graduation ceremony Thursday to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” celebrating the seven young adults graduating from our classrooms, as well as the parents, family and peers who supported them along the way.

“We’re celebrating with you as we look back at all that your children – our students – have done at The Day School,” Chief Administrator Cynthia Morelock told a gymnasium packed with well-wishers, students and staff. “We’re not just teaching students here. We’re learning from them.”

David Miles, President and CEO of The Children’s Institute, also addressed the graduates, noting that “they, too, have made The Institute their home, some for quite some time.” David, who is set to retire, started his career here 40 years ago as a teacher’s aide.

“You are here for a reason – share your purpose,” he told them, citing John Gordon’s 11 lessons for graduates. “Whatever your work, whatever you decide to do ... allow yourself to be used for a bigger purpose.”

Anthony Pierce found a purpose at The Day School during his nine years here, his parents said. Other schools focused merely on the young man’s deficits. Not The Children’s Institute.

“Look at him. We brought him here and they never once told us what he couldn’t do,” said Michelle Pierce, as her son beamed a wide smile nearby. “It was about what he could do.”

“It’s hard to put into words how proud we are and how happy we are,” added Anthony’s father, also named Anthony, as he praised the school staff.

“He’s actually 21 and he has become an adult,” said Kathy Fetterman, whose son, Justin, graduated with the class. “But it’s bittersweet because we have to leave a great school program.”

Unlike traditional schools, where students gain diplomas at age 18, The Day School allows students to attend through age 21.

“It’s a milestone,” said Bill VanWormer, whose son, Alec, graduated Thursday with a degree from Seneca Valley school district. “We’re so used to getting him on the bus every morning to get to The Children’s Institute.”

“We’re grateful he had this program because he loves to be out and about,” added Julie VanWormer, Alec’s mom.

Alec is one of approximately 60 Seneca Valley students placed outside of the district’s schools, said Gerald Miller, who presented Alec his diploma.

“It’s rewarding [to do this],” he said. “It’s why I do what I do.”

Diona Mower, a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) for the school, has been to about 10 Day School graduations over the years. It gets harder every year, she said, because she has worked longer and longer with the students.

“[I enjoy] being able to see them mature, especially in their social skills and developing friendships with each other,” Diona said, while people near her, cake in hand, posed for photographs. “They know they won’t be lonely. They’ll have skills to be included in things. That means the most to me.”

And Denise Kubsitek, the school’s Associate Director, also was touched by the graduating class, which – at seven – is smaller by school standards, though no less enthusiastic or worthy of praise.

“It’s inspiring, emotional and exciting that they’re going to start the next chapter of their lives,” she said. “It is – not to be corny – it is amazing.”

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