GREENVILLE — With tears slowly forming in his eyes on one of the proudest days he can remember, Al Guilfoyle strummed on his ukelele while singing a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as his son Bradley Guilfoyle, now a graduate of the Seiter Education Center, sat in the audience.
At 26 years of age, Bradley, who is autistic, spent his final day at the school after graduating Friday from the center’s transition planning program, which is designed to guide young people with disabilities into areas of employment, post-secondary training, adult living, and community participation.
“Back in 1988 when Bradley was diagnosed with autism we knew very little about it,” Guilfoyle said. “There wasn’t much going on in Montcalm County at the time. But a number of people who are in this room today started a program that is one of the best in the area and is growing.”
Bradley was one of 10 graduates from the Seiter Education Center, who all walked away with a certificate of achievement, ready and waiting for the next step of their life to begin.
Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) Superintendent Scott Koenigsknecht stood at the podium in front of the graduates, their friends and family, thanking them for the effort they put forth to arrive at this point in their lives.
“This is a great opportunity for me to recognize and reward these young men and women for their hard work and dedication,” Koenigsknecht said. “This is also an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of two other groups of people. These young men and women could not have earned the accolades they are about to receive by themselves. It took the time, patience, commitment and devotion of their parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, support staff and countless others.”
Koenigsknecht asked those in the audience to remember to continue with the same amount of faith and assistance they have been providing for so long.
“We all need to be reminded that we must continue to advocate for them as they enter the next phase of their lives,” he said. “All of them have a tremendous amount of potential waiting to be utilized in some way.”
At the closing of ceremonies, the graduates stood up and on the count of three turned their tassels from the left side of their caps to the right, officially declaring themselves as graduates.
MAISD Associate Superintendent for Special Education Kathleen Flynn offered the closing remarks of the evening, reminding everyone that the students at school aren’t the only ones being educated.
“Graduation is a special celebration of all that students have learned at school,” she said. “Today we should also celebrate what these students have taught us, as I learn something new everyday from these students.”