Family, friends and staff filled the Roosevelt Hall auditorium last month for the June graduation ceremony at Roosevelt Warm Springs Vocational Rehabilitation Campus (RWS).
RWS holds graduation ceremonies twice a year to celebrate the accomplishments of its students who are returning home armed with new skills and enthusiasm to achieve their goals. Several graduating students, it was announced, already had jobs in their home communities. A total of 44 students participated in the graduation ceremony on June 19th. The event included a motivational speech by former student LaShawn Long, a vocal performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” by current graduate Sarah Pergola and a moving sign language presentation of “I Believe I Can Fly” by the Roosevelt Warm Springs Signers.
Mr. Long, 25, graduated from Roosevelt Warm Springs in December 2013 and has been working as a Peer Support Specialist at Access2Independence in Columbus since October 2014. He shared the keynote speaker duties with his employer, Nichole Davis, Executive Director of Acess2Independence, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities live independently. Mr. Long encouraged the current graduates to never give up on their dreams. Mrs. Davis, service dog beside her, shared her experience of growing up with epilepsy and reminded the graduates that having a disability does not make one less than other people, just different.
After receiving their graduation certificate from the keynote speakers and Roosevelt Warm Springs Executive Director Bill Bulloch, each student had an opportunity to make a speech to the hundreds of people gathered in the Roosevelt Hall auditorium. Many graduates -stood at the podium and thanked their family and friends, plus expressed their feelings of what Roosevelt Warm Springs experience has meant to them.
The graduates may be leaving Warm Springs, but the staff of RWS hopes to keep in contact with them as they return home and enter the workforce. Trey Stewart, another former RWS student who now works fulltime at Warm Springs, will call the graduates at regular intervals to document how they are progressing on their goals. The information that Mr. Stewart collects will help RWS to continually improve its programs and services. The next graduation will take place in December.