Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony where I have to believe there was not a dry eye in the house. I can tell you this… I cried through the whole thing. Seven inspiring, special young people graduated from Strive University. This is a two-year post secondary education program for young adults with developmental disabilities.
At Strive U, students live for 2 years with a roommate in their own apartment. They not only live there but the apartments become skills classroom where they learn to live, learn and gain vital knowledge of how to live independently. They have wonderful staff on their campus to help them out. The students take classes at the University of Southern Maine in a variety of fields. Strive U also helps them to obtain meaningful paid employment opportunities.
The program was started in 2004 and has graduated 50 students to date. It is regarded understandably as a “model program” on an international basis.
Now for the fun part of it, let me give you a short overview of these 7 students and their future plans – for privacy reasons I will not use their names. I will tell you however a bit more about out one of the graduates and why I was there:
- T.D. came into my life a few years ago. After knowing her for about six months, she came to stay over with us for a weekend. Well, she never went home again. For privacy reasons I will skip the reasons why. However, I will tell you that she wanted to live a dream she had and said she knew someday that someone would come along to help her to get it.
I’ve learned so much from her. She is a smart, funny, caring person who is always happy and laughing. She is about to turn 27 years old. She graduated from Lincoln Academy in 2006. T.D.’s future plans include living on her own (she is already in her own apartment now), and having a cat. She currently works at Holy Donuts in Portland and loves the people there.
T.D. calls me one of her Wows. That is upside down for Mom. Now you know why I was in tears throughout the ceremony yesterday.
- R.T. enjoys making funny videos of his Strive U classmates. R.T. is looking forward to having his own apartment and would eventually like to own a computer business.
- L.S. graduated from high school in 2008. She says being at Strive U gave her the confidence to be the person she wants to be. She wants to live a happy life! She hopes to travel, get married, and volunteer at a museum.
- K.B. graduated from high school in 2011. He is proud of becoming independent and liked learning about the City of Portland. He is looking forward to living on his own and really wants a big screen TV!
- D.C. graduated from high school in 2011. His favorite Strive U memory was touring the courthouse and getting to sit in the Judge’s seat. D.C. would like to have a family and a pet fish.
- E.M. graduated from high school in 2010. While at Strive U she learned to cook, ride the bus, and how to budget. She would one day like to own her own business.
- C.W. graduated from an Indiana high school on 2010. She is looking forward to living on her own, riding horses, and being successful. C.W. is really proud of being independent.