Students beamed with joy, and parents and staff wiped away tears during the Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs graduation ceremony Wednesday.
Eight students crossed the stage in the cafeteria of the Boshears Center, Tyler ISD’s school for students with special needs.
The school is a family where the staff, faCulty, parents, and students care for each other, teacher Greg Danielson said.
Principal Denese Johnson said the school is unique as many of the students have attended the school since they were babies.
“For other graduates, they have gone through four years of high school and it is a great accomplishment, but for ours it’s been a lifetime journey,” she said, holding back tears. “It just makes it more emotional because you know where they’ve come from and how they’ve arrived and it’s just huge.”
This year’s graduates were Perez Martin Allen, Jasmine Marie Cervantes, Darrius Guyvon Fisher, Manuel De Jesus Lozano-Carillo, Jason Andrew Parks, William Robert Reuter, Montana Noell Saunders and Rex Allen Tullos Jr.
Large pictures of each student in their cap and gown hung along a wall in the cafeteria.
A “Congratulations Grad” sign hung along a table with yellow goodie bags, featuring the school’s bumblebee mascot and each student’s name stitched in.
Two yellow and white cakes, decorated with pictures of the graduates, laid on a table in the back of the cafeteria.
A video presentation during the ceremony showcased photos of each student’s journey from baby to adult.
Teachers remembered each student during the video, describing their personality, likes, dislikes and accomplishments.
Danielson said he’s seen students learn to walk, talk and eat.
“All the life skills that we take for granted, they have to struggle to learn and those achievements are beautiful to us because the effort of every single staff member has helped build that,” he said.
Samantha Allen, 34, celebrated the graduation of her 22-year-old son, Perez. Six years ago, she officially adopted Perez.
“I tried not to cry,” she said. “He’s grown up before our eyes. I worked at St. Louis (Early Childhood Center) years ago when he was half his size so it’s just been a journey.”
Ms. Allen said she’s seen Perez grow in physical abilities, such as being able to crawl in and out of the bed and couch, and communication.
Mona Parks, 44, watched her 22-year-old son, Jason, cross the stage.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “I loved looking at the pictures of each child’s progression.”
Ms. Parks said Boshears has helped Jason be able to feed himself, walk and get out of his wheelchair.
Arcelia Tullos, 58, said Boshears was the best school for her 22-year-old son, Rex. She said he attended two other schools before and none compare to the Boshears Center.
“All the staff is specialized in special needs so all his medical and academic needs were met,” she said.
Ms. Tullos said Rex learned a lot of social and life skills, making him more independent.
“He now says ‘Hi,’ ‘Bye’ and interacts with people,” she said. “He would not do that when he first got here four years ago.”
Ms. Johnson said just as the school’s mascot, the bumblebee, students at Boshears exceed expectations.
“The bumblebee is not supposed to fly but he does every day,” she said. “The bumblebee exceeds expectations and our students exceed expectations every day in the things that they do.”