May is the month of graduation ceremonies. No matter what grade you are in you have a ceremony to move on to the next big thing. Sometimes it’s changing buildings — elementary to junior high to high school. Sometimes the next big thing is “the world beyond,” be it college or a job.

High school graduation is a big one. So many of our alumni graduated from high school this year and a handful more from college. As you read in this newsletter about Mitch Olsen, he graduated with his Masters in Deaf Education from Washington University—and then we hired him. Full circle — that’s pretty sweet.

On May 16, I was Master of Ceremony for Child’s Voice graduation. It was Number 20 for me. Yes, to lead this incredible organization for the past 20 years is a blessing.  Yes, I am the lucky one! Each year graduation is so touching. Each child gives a speech and everyone sings and dances. You can see on the children’s faces, graduating or not, that they cannot contain their happiness. Pride fills them. Each year this takes place and this year did not fail.

This year let me tell you a story about one graduate.

When this child was three years old and leaving the early intervention system and beginning school, this child’s school district did not want to support the child and family at Child’s Voice. In fact the district thought this child would do just fine learning in a local special education program that taught a communication modality different from what the parents had wished. These parents, as similar to all parents at Child’s Voice, wanted their child to learn the language of the home. The district wanted them to learn another language in addition to the home language.  This was not acceptable to the family.

The Child’s Voice team of experts, in addition to the family early intervention support team and the implant center experts, worked with all attending the district meeting. It was a hard meeting. It was a tearful meeting. It was uncomfortable (again as with many of our families). These parents spoke from their heart, but the district did not care. Our experts spoke from their heart and from sound research and experience. The district did not care. The expert from the implant center explained the family wishes and surgical procedure so the child could learn to listen and speak. Still they did not care. Luckily, the other special education program cared. The parents’ voice and wishes were finally heard. The district listened to the parents’ wishes, and as they say, “you know the rest of the story,” and the child was supported at Child’s Voice. The child graduated from Child’s Voice this year, speaking the language of the home. During the ceremony a song was dedicated to this the family. I think everyone cried. I know I did. It was a beautiful song.

Graduation from every level of school is exciting and to be celebrated. However, graduating from Child’s Voice is one of the biggest milestones the children and family achieve. Learning knowledge is at one level. Learning to speak, sing, think, laugh, dance, and find pure joy—that is at a Child’s Voice level.

The entire staff, all the families, and I we are so darn proud of the hard work and great accomplishments achieved by these students. I have a beautiful mountaintop picture in my office. It says, “The best view comes after the hardest climb.”  Our graduates have the best view!

Congratulations to all our graduates for their well-earned accomplishments. Congratulations to our hard working staff, harder working families and hardest working students.

Fondly,

Dr. Michele