June 7, 2003
A lifetime achievement
From: Milford Daily News, MA - Jun 7, 2003
By Charlie Breitrose / News Staff Writer
FRAMINGHAM -- While the entire graduating class could fit in a minivan, The Learning Center for the Deaf's Class of 2003 represented a big milestone for the school. It is the 20th graduating class.
This fact made school director Michael Bello feel a bit aged, he said at yesterday's commencement.
"I've been at all 20 graduations," he told the seven graduates and their guests.
Bello also remembers many of the graduating seniors from the time they were still crawling. The Learning Center starts teaching children well before kindergarten. One of yesterday's graduates attended the school for 17 years, beginning in the infant program.
Others came from out of state, or across the ocean, to attend the program.
Jeff Mansfield spent the last 15 years of his life attending the Learning Center.
"I see the children playing on the playground, and I see myself in each and every one of them," Mansfield said. "I know they will receive an excellent education and will become life-long learners, like myself."
Like their counterparts at mainstream public high schools, students at the Learning Center had to pass the MCAS this year to graduate.
Naschabell Rodriguez thanked the school for preparing her for the state exam. When she arrived from Puerto Rico, Rodriguez went to a public school, but she didn't feel like she fit in. Then she found the Learning Center.
"What you taught me allowed me to pass the MCAS," she said. "I'm so proud of that."
Graduation speaker Richard Ballard graduated with the first class in 1984. He told the graduates how lucky they were to attend such an excellent school where they could learn in American Sign Language, and have deaf adult role models.
He warned the graduates that when they leave their school, the world may not be as accommodating and friendly.
"Some people are still slow to accept deaf people as equal," Ballard said. "You are going to be facing that kind of situation. You will have to take a humble attitude and take time to educate people."
Still, Ballard said, the graduates shouldn't be afraid to take chances.
"Life is full of risks, and taking risks lets you prepare for what's next in life," he said.
Mansfield told his classmates they should not define themselves by their hearing impairment.
"You are not marked by being deaf," he said. "You are marked by the talents you have. You are marked by a commitment to being yourself."
The Learning Center for the Deaf Class of 2003: Brent Clark, Jeff Mansfield, Laura McManus, Brian Minch, Wendy Muturi, Naschabell Rodriguez, Sabrina Sherman.
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