Smiling and wearing blue caps and gowns, 12 residents filed into St. Mary’s Atrium this morning to the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Mikey even pumped his fist. 

Graduation Day is one of the happiest days of the year at the Home, a rite of passage that signals completion of the graduates’ formal education. Yet it’s also one of the saddest days; the graduates are 21, or will reach that age soon, and so they will be leaving the Home. They may move, for example, to an adult group home.
“The people here are so caring and so loving,” Devon’s mother, Tia, said as she delivered the parent tribute during the ceremony. “I thank you. I really wish he could stay, but I know he has to move on to make room for the next special child.” 
Lisa Suhay, an English teacher and author of eight children’s books, gave the keynote address. Suhay has come to know St. Mary’s Home well as she has worked on a new edition of her book “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale,” proceeds of which will in part benefit the children and young adults who live here. The Home, she said, “is a place of deliberate acts of kindness, where minds and spirits grow together.”
Each resident who comes to live at St. Mary’s Home ends up finding a special friend among the staff of the Home and the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs’ REACH Program teaching team. (REACH stands for “raising expectations and abilities for children with complex health needs.”)  The caregivers who knew today’s graduates the best shared a bit about them — their infectious laughs, their million-dollar smiles, their playfulness, their determination and their independent spirits. 
Congratulations, Anthony, Crystle, Devon, Ericka, Jamie, Jo Jo, Michelle, Mikey, Patrick, Renee, Vickie and Wayne. You are loved, and you will be missed. 

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