When Olivia Kiley’s parents took her to interview at the Threshold Program, she was so reluctant that she refused to exit the car at first.
But a lot can change in two years.
“This has changed my life,” said Kiley, who was one of five student speakers at Threshold Graduation. “This is my second home. It’s where I think I will belong forever, having friends who will be with me forever.”
Kiley is among 21 remarkable and resilient students who graduated Friday afternoon during a festive ceremony at the Harvard-Epworth Church.
Family, friends, faculty and staff filled the church, where speakers – including Threshold alumnus Devin Meyer ’90, who delivered the graduation address – shared reflections, memories, advice and thanks, and celebrated their confidence and independence.
“I was always so scared, anxious about everything,” Kiley reflected. “I had no confidence because I was too afraid.”
After her studies at Threshold, however, Kiley does her own laundry, navigates the bus and train schedule, and so much more.
“I also learned it is ok to have a learning disability,” she said. “I’ve learned so many things in just two short years.”
Threshold Director Ernst VanBergeijk praised the Threshold faculty, Lesley employees, support staff, students’ families, vocational advisors and mentors – including retiring longtime Threshold faculty members Fran Yuan and Marcia Mishley; and the late Ava Greene, who passed away in January and mentored many Threshold students as manager of the Student Center cafe. But above all, VanBergeijk and other speakers praised the graduates.
“We’re proud of you. We’re going miss you,” said VanBergeijk. “We wish you all the success in the world.”
“You inspire yourselves, you most certainly inspire me and the rest of your Lesley community,” said President Jeff Weiss. “You’re a lifelong member of the Lesley family, and while you will go off and do many things, you always have a home back at Lesley.”
Helen McDonald, the Threshold admissions director, introduced Kiley and the other student speakers, Daniel Gerber, Benjamin Hedstrom, Lisa Osterman and Suhas Sarma. McDonald reflected on the 400 students she has worked with during her years with the program and all of the lessons they have taught her about patience, listening and perseverance.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” she said to the graduates. “Every one of you has taught me more than I could ever teach you. … Most importantly, you guys have taught me about bravery in the face of adversity, and I’m extremely proud of you all.”
Celebrating the legacy of Threshold
Founded in 1982, Threshold is a two-year campus-based program for highly motivated young adults with learning differences, often followed by a Bridge Year or Transition Year to support graduates as they work toward independence.
“Thirty-six years ago, (Threshold founder) Dr. Arlyn Roffman combined worlds in a way no one could have imagined,” said VanBergeijk. “It has changed the lives of hundreds of young adults, not only here at Lesley University, but across the country. It became a model for inclusion in higher education.”
Threshold alumni attended graduation and also took part in the ceremony, including a vocal performance by Daniel Levin, who graduated from Threshold in 2006 and sang “What a Wonderful World,” and Meyer, who graduated from Threshold 28 years ago and returned to deliver the graduation address.
"Through hard work and determination, you made it,” said Meyer, who works as a lead preschool teacher, serves as a member of the Threshold Advisory Board, earned an associate’s degree from Bunker Hill Community College and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree through Lesley’s Center for the Adult Learner.
“Regardless of your plans, you will all face different challenges which Threshold has helped you to prepare for,” said Meyer. “As you experience some setbacks in between some successes, always remember what you have done during your time at Threshold. In a complicated and sometimes unfair world, there are sure to be some roadblocks and barriers or uncertainly. Just remember, you’re ready to face them, and you won’t have to face them alone.”
Friday’s ceremony honored the graduates’ courage to leave home and enroll at Threshold, and their determination to learn to live independently.
“Devin really exemplifies the values of the Threshold Program,” said VanBergeijk. “He is a model of perseverance. He believes strongly in lifelong learning. And he’s a positive and contributing member of community.”
Following the speeches, Lesley University Board of Trustees co-chair Juanita James, who is also a Threshold alumni parent, announced the conferral of the Threshold certificates, which Provost Rich Hansen and President Weiss delivered to each graduate.
“You are a different person today than when you first started the program,” said VanBergeijk. “This is the turning point on the road to independence.”
Graduates gathered with their families and friends in Washburn Hall for a reception following the ceremony.
Threshold Class of 2018
Congratulations to Diana Adam, Elizabeth Borsch, Brady Byerley, Elizabeth Calo, Alexandra Canty, Katherine Donald, Pellegrino DeGuglielmo, Daniel Gerber, Justin Gorman, Matthew Grogan, Benjamin Hedstrom, Mary Houston, Lydia Ingalls, Olivia Kiley, Tyler Kolowsky, Briana Maribito, Bridget McGill, Charlia Osterman, Suhas Sarma, Christopher Satterfield and Julia Silveri.
Internship site awards
Threshold Graduation is also an occasion to celebrate and honor the dozens of businesses and organizations that serve as internship sites for Threshold students.
Threshold faculty Leslie Macone and Threshold founder Arlyn Roffman presented the Arlyn J. Roffman Founder’s Award to Dickson Bros. Hardware in Harvard Square, accepted by Dickson Bros. owner Ned Ver Planck.
Threshold Director of Employment Services Krista DiGregorio and retired Threshold Director Jim Wilbur presented the James S. Wilbur Award to Herb Chambers Mercedes-Benz, accepted by Mercedes-Benz of Boston General Manager Jeff Davis.