When Tom Ames stood up to provide the musical interlude at the June 11 graduation for ASAT, he chose to sing “Wild World,” by Cat Stevens.
At first, Tom sang alone but within moments, the enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 family and friends began singing along.
It was one of many uplifting moments, capped by the poignant words of Jacob Shore, one of the 9 graduates. Jacob brought many to tears and received thundering applause as he talked about how he has come to terms with his diagnosis. Jacob is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University.
“Over the course of two years, and really throughout my life, I’ve wondered about what I would be like if I didn’t have Aspergers, and I would be able to go to school, college, and work, as a neurotypical kind of person, it wasn’t always wondering too, it was a deep desire, and I desperately wanted to be normal, and be rid of this handicap, and all the different not good effects that came with it, more than once, it may have gotten me in trouble, and caused me to be embarrassed. I just wanted to be cured of this thing that had kept me from being a normal person, that I thought held me back from what I, and maybe a lot of other people wanted from me, I just thought it would make me feel liberated, and able to make people happy and proud with me, if I did things better or right to them, if I didn’t have my disability. But now, I know the truth, I know now that maybe we can’t change who we are, or what we’re born with, but we can live with it, embrace it, and make our lives, and the lives of everyone else, just a little better, and I know that people are pleased and proud of me, no matter what I do, and most important of all, I know who I am, and how I expect to live and be treated as, and even if I do change my mind about something, especially if like it, I’ll still be who I am inside. I am Jacob Adam Shore! And nothing’s gonna change that.” Continue reading
Eleven students showcased their unique personalities and shared highlights of the past two years on June 18 when they became the third graduating class of Chapel Haven West.
“We are gathered here today to celebrate the end of one phase of life’s journey and the beginning of another,” said Robert D. Nurin, Director of Education at Chapel Haven, Inc. who made the trip west to Tucson for the ceremony.
“Life is a journey,” he continued. “A course that you set and determine by the decisions you make each and every day. Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’. So as you step out to meet the challenges of the future, your minds prepared and your skills honed by the experiences you have had at Chapel Haven West, I urge you to set your direction with a positive “can-do” attitude and a strong spirit.”
The graduating students – Michael Augerson, Gary Blomquist, Chris Brown, Sara Christensen, Joshua Friend, Mike Hurson, Sydney Kramer, Aaron Monihan, Jonathan Shuman, and Stephanie Tse – took the stage to say a few words about their Chapel Haven experiences. The speeches were filled with a combination of humor, candor, and heartfelt thanks that drew both laughter and sentiment from family, friends, and CHW staff. Continue reading
Matt Tietjen, supervisor of REACH, summed up the poignant ceremony this way: “There is something in this room today that wasn’t here two years ago. It is visible in your faces today and even in the way that you carried yourself as you walked into this room just now. That thing is confidence. Confidence in yourselves – confidence that you have the skills to succeed as you prepare to take another major step in life. ”
“From mobility and cooking to new jobs and friendships, You have all accomplished so much in the past two years that it would take us all afternoon to cover it. So instead I will just thank you. You came to Chapel Haven with the determination needed to get yourselves to this point, and we are grateful to have been partners with each of you along the way. You can now take with you the self-confidence needed to be successful in the next step. I also want to thank the parents and family members here today. Your hope for your son’s and daughter’s futures and your trust in Chapel Haven has allowed us to work with the best students an educator could hope for. And, Finally, I want to thank the REACH staff. It is entirely because of this amazing team of dedicated and talented people, who’s cars you will see in the parking lot well after their shifts are supposed to have ended – it is because of them that Chapel Haven is able to keep the promises we make to our students and their families.” Continue reading