There was no quelling the enthusiasm on Friday afternoon as the Threshold Program held its 35th graduation ceremony.
“You worked hard and this is a turning point on your road to independence,” Threshold Director Ernst VanBergeijk told the program’s 19 graduates as they gathered with family and friends at the Harvard-Epworth Church.
The groundbreaking, two-year program equips young people with diverse learning challenges to live and work independently while also getting an inclusive, on-campus college experience. As several of the student speakers acknowledged, it’s difficult to transition from home to college life, but each student embraced the challenges and excelled.
“We all know it wasn’t like butterflies and unicorns. There were times when it felt hard or I had moments of doubt, but if you just push through them you can do anything,” said graduate Olivia Gaffney.
Sam Rutt, who “moved from Yankee country to Red Sox country,” said his parents and teachers weren’t sure if college would ever be possible for him. Finding out he had been accepted to Threshold was “one of the best days of my life,” he said.
“Before moving to Threshold, I really did not feel like I fit in. At Threshold, I made friends for the first time. Now I stand literally on the threshold of the rest of my life.”
In his graduation address, Tom Sannicandro, a disability attorney and longtime disability advocate, encouraged the Class of 2019 to stand up for their rights.
“You have the responsibility to speak up for yourselves, to tell the world what you want and need, and in doing so, you’re speaking for those who can’t,” said Sannicandro, who currently serves as the director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges. “If you don’t enforce those rights, those rights will disappear for future generations.”
He told them “you can have the life of your dreams,” from rock stars to childcare providers. Over the past two years, the graduates have indeed explored a variety of jobs through internships at preschools, retail stores, restaurants and more.
In addition to honoring the graduates, Krista DiGregorio, director of Threshold’s Alumni and Employment Services, and Threshold alumnus Pelly DeGuglielmo ’18 recognized one of those internship partners, Bon Appétit, which won this year’s James S. Wilbur Award.
Threshold also recognized retiring teachers Patricia Morrissey and Terry Bromfield for their service, the latter receiving the Arlyn J. Roffman Founder’s award.
After presenting the awards, the graduates each crossed the platform to receive their certificate for completing the program. Many will continue into Threshold’s transition program in the fall, where they will build on the skills they’ve learned in the first two years.
Interim President Richard Hansen encouraged the new graduates to remain connected to Lesley and to their community here even as they move ahead with their lives and vocations.
Said Hansen, “We’ll all be here ready to help you and cheering you on.”