Special Students Walk Across Stage
By BRITTNI BARNETT
Martha Grimmett watched with pride as her foster son took his final steps as a student of a school she said has changed his life.
Dequalen Hobbs, who Ms. Grimmett said is severely autistic, was decked out in his black robe, black hat, gold tassel and a huge smile as he graduated from the Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs on Tuesday.
As he and six others received their diplomas, they were met with smiles, laughter, applause and tears of joys from family members, friends and the teachers and staff of the Boshears Center, Tyler ISD's school for students with special needs.
"We are so proud of him," Ms. Grimmett said.
After retiring from serving 33 years as a nurse, Ms. Grimmett decided to devote her time to being a foster parent and has helped eight children in the past eight years.
With a tear in her eye, she spoke of how far Hobbs, 22, has come since he began attending the Boshears Center.
"I have had him since he was 14," she said "When I got him he wasn't able to do anything. Boshears helped me push him to his maximum."
Hobbs came to the school seven years ago with problems related to attention and controlling his impulses, which kept him from interacting with his classmates during activities, one of his teachers, Olga Salas, said.
"With strong training, love, encouragement and care from his teachers, he now has emotional stability and his attention has been directed toward the path of knowledge," Ms. Salas said.
Similar inspiring and emotional stories were told during the ceremony as teachers at the school gave personal accounts of each of the graduates and their time at the center.
"I don't think they would have gotten the programming like they have here anywhere else," Carol Smith, a teacher at the center, said. "Most families I have spoken with feel that this is a second family for them and a source of support."
The theme of this year's graduation ceremony was "Gold Medal Graduates."
"Our graduates are champions," Karyn Hacker, principal of the Boshears Center, said. "The simple tasks in life that most people take for granted are very difficult for our students. Like the Olympic athletes, our graduates have trained and trained hard to accomplish what seems to be the impossible."
Some of these accomplishments were demonstrated during the ceremony, such as when graduate Izaac Pereira helped lead the audience in the national anthem using a communication device he learned to use while at the center.
Other graduates or "Boshears Bumble Bees" were 22-year-olds Luis Morales, Deborah Mitchell, Lauren Reed, Kimberly Shurme and Ashton Thornton.
Also in attendance were Superintendant Dr. Randy Reid and school board member, the Rev. Orenthia Mason.
In her final remarks to the graduates and their families, Ms. Hacker quoted author Edward Teller.
"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly," she said. "So our Boshears bees are going to fly."