STAATSBURG – His face trembled and his eyes welled up with tears.
The father of James P. couldn’t speak — nor did he need to — to express what it meant to see his son walk to the front of the stage at the Anderson Center for Autism Friday and collect his diploma.
“He’s been at Anderson since he was about 7. If it wasn’t for Anderson, who knows,” James’ father, also named James, said, his voice trailing off.
So it was that the 2014 graduating class passed a poignant milestone in their personal development.
To respect the privacy of the students, their last names and those of their parents have been abbreviated.
This year’s event was notable for a number of reasons. It is the school’s 90th anniversary. And the graduating class, 18 students, was the largest ever.
A walking symbol of that long history took the stage in the form of Vance Gage, grandson of the school’s founder, Dr. Victor V. Anderson.
The campus has changed over the years, Gage said. But one thing about the school has remained the same — its mission of serving children with special needs.
“That,” Gage said, “is pretty special — one mission for 90 years.”
The ceremony was marked by the familiar — speeches, awards and pictures — and the remarkable, such as silent applause generated not by hands put together, but waved like Broadway dancers.
“It’s the culmination of everyone’s efforts — the parents, the school,” Anderson Chief Operating Officer Patrick Paul said.
The printed program told of each student’s achievements, from learning writing skills and increasing positive interaction with peers, to using picture icons to make requests and better communicate needs.
“A lot of times, high school and other graduations can be academic based,” said Jayson Pistritto, a special education teacher. “This is more of a life accomplishment, the next step in the road for them.”
The parents of Matthew Z. of Roslyn, Nassau County, said if their son gained anything from being at Anderson, it was happiness.
“They really gave him a childhood and a wonderful place to grow,” his mother, Stacy Z., said.
John Ferro: 845-437-4816; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @PoJoEnviro
ANDERSON CENTER GRADUATES
To respect the privacy of the students, last names have been abbreviated.
Kelsey A., Lindsey A., Brian C., Adem K., Gary L., Katherine L., John Patrick M., Daniel M., James P., Brian P., David P., Sebastian R., Andrew R., Jonathan R., John S., Tyler S., Andrew T. and Mathew Z.
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