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June 1, 2003

MSDB graduates leave with tenacity, determination

Great Falls Tribune, MT - Jun 1, 2003

By PETER JOHNSON Tribune Staff Writer Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown on Saturday quoted the world's shortest graduation speech: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's thundering "Never give up!"

Then Brown made a similar point to the eight students graduating from the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind and the approximately 250 supporters who gathered to watch them.

"If at first you don't succeed, welcome to the club," Brown said, noting several famous musicians, scholars and athletes who failed early on in their careers and later became huge successes.

MSDB's graduates already have learned the importance of tenacity. Five are blind or visually impaired and three are deaf.

"I was taught from a very early age by my parents to never give up," said graduate Matt Castner of Great Falls. "I've never let anybody tell me there's something I can't do."

Castner received a $16,000 Carroll College scholarship. He plans to study communications and theology and said he might like to become a Protestant minister.

Other MSDB graduates:

Desi Cady of Billings, who will attend Leader Dog School in Michigan this fall and later Montana State University-Billings. Cady won the Heisey and American Legion Auxiliary awards.

Cindy Ferguson-Davis, who will return to Billings to work and continue vocation training.

Jennifer Franzen, who will return to Glasgow and work for Milk River Industries.

Debra McCoy, who will return to Sidney to work for a year before enrolling in college. She hopes to become a teacher of the deaf. She won a National Honor Roll award.

Class President Jonny McKessick of Great Falls, who will enroll in MSDB's transition program to continue vocation and life skills preparation.

Cory Nette of Great Falls, who will enroll in MSDB's transition program to continue vocation and life skills preparation.

Kenny Smith of Great Falls, who plans to attend a technology college in Billings or Helena to study auto body or auto mechanics. He won an American Legion Award and was selected by the MSDB staff for the Callway Meier Award.

The class of 2003 presented the school with a freezer for the concession stand and MSDB teacher Julie-Dee Alt was given the Dufresne Award.

Superintendent Steve Gettel praised her work first as an elementary teacher who ran great Christmas programs and more recently as a skilled high school science teacher. Alt also headed a committee that set long-range plans for the school.

Gettel also announced that longtime Lewis and Clark Elementary Principal Mary Ann Cosgrove was the first winner of the school's Community Partner Award for helping mainstream MSDB students.

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