Twenty remarkable and resilient young men and women reflected on their time at Lesley and looked forward to the future as they celebrated their graduation from the university’s Threshold Program.
Threshold Director Jim Wilbur (right) congratulates Campbell Grousbeck and
his fellow graduates.
Family, friends, faculty and staff filled the Harvard-Epworth Church for the ceremony on Friday afternoon, which began with a standing ovation for Threshold Director Jim Wilbur, who is retiring after 25 years with the program.
Wilbur received thanks and praise throughout the ceremony, and singer Daniel Levin, who graduated from Threshold in 2006, dedicated his performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to Wilbur. But Wilbur kept his focus on the graduates.
“It’s been an extraordinary year for the Threshold students,” said Wilbur. “We’re all very, very proud of you.”
Threshold is a campus-based program for highly motivated young adults with special needs. The graduation ceremony marked their completion of the two-year program, which is often followed by a third bridge or transition year.
Friday’s ceremony honored the graduates’ courage to leave home and enroll at Threshold, and their determination to learn to live independently.
Lesley University President Joseph Moore recalled the graduating class’s arrival on campus nearly two years ago.
“I suspect you were a bit uncertain about that move, but you had the courage to do it,” said Moore, noting that the students met new friends and teachers, and improved their ability to study and gain new independence. “At graduation we also look forward and know that what you’ve done here, you can do again and again and again throughout your life.”
Six student speakers addressed their classmates, thanking their families for their unflagging support and sharing memories of the Threshold community and the ways the experience transformed them.
“I like to think of us as flowers,” said graduate Haley Lenentine. “We started out as a seed not knowing what we would become. Every flower is unique in its own way. We have all blossomed into the beautiful flowers that we are today.”
Student speaker Clara Dombek posed for a photo
with President Joseph Moore as she received her
During her address, student speaker Clara Dombek said that she felt shy and isolated before the Threshold Program.
“I went through school always feeling like an oddball because I was physically different from everyone else,” she said. “I was afraid to talk to other kids because I wasn’t like them.”
Now, she speaks up, takes the train on her own, and feels confident.
“Threshold has provided me with skills and independence I now know I will have for the rest of my life, and I will never doubt that,” said Dombek. “These have been the best years of my life.”
Michael Storz, who delivered the graduation address, oversees programs that teach people with autism spectrum disorders and mild cognitive disabilities the skills to live independently. He encouraged the Threshold graduates to view challenges as stepping stones rather than obstacles.
“How we view our challenges defines us,” said Storz, president of Chapel Haven. “Share your gifts with the world, because the world needs each of you. Don’t be afraid to shine, because I know each of you has a talent you are the best at.”
For the 32nd year, since the inaugural Threshold graduation, musicians Billy Novick and Larry Carsman provided beautiful music throughout the ceremony on acoustic guitar, recorder and vocals.
Storz, President Moore and Threshold Director Wilbur all lauded the students’ resiliency and their families’ support. Storz credited the parents’ “extraordinary efforts to advocate for your children,” and the students’ “motivation and sense of purpose.”
“Together you have an impressive history and much to celebrate,” said Storz. “I know you will continue to live your lives prepared and determined to build a better world.”
Threshold graduates enjoy the remarks during the ceremony.
Student speaker Farbrianna Hickford recalled the “laughter and happiness every day,” reminiscing about exciting internships, late night outings with friends to get sushi and going to the Red Sox.
“We’ve had a lot of laughs, and a few tears – and look at all you’ve accomplished in two years,” marveled Wilbur. “You’re a great, great group of students.”
Congratulations to the entire graduating class: Isabel Charlotte Aguirre*, Clara Jane Dombek*, Bartolina Antonia Faugno, Robert Maxwell Fisher, Maria Joanna Gerwatowski*, Andrew William Gold, Campbell Wycliffe Grousbeck*, Farbrianna Dominique Hickford*, James Lawrence Ice, Katie Ann Kimball, Haley Whitesell Lenentine*, Melissa McKiernan, Abigail Beth Miller, John Hugh Quinn III, William Christopher Reed, Anastasia Smith Robb, Jack St. Onge, Brian Amedeo Villani, Henry Martin Weinberg and Stephanie Hanna Wengel.
* Student speakers