A student’s address at the recent Wor-Wic Community College graduation was brought to my attention.
Because she was aware of my youngest son being on the Autism spectrum, a reader emailed this week encouraging me to try and find the speech from the featured student speaker at the recent Wor-Wic Community College commencement. I later learned the speaker was Samantha Davis, who received her associate degree in hotel-motel-restaurant management with a concentration in culinary arts.
With graduation season fully upon us, I thought I would share some of her comments here. Of course, these remarks especially resonate with me because I’m the parent to a special needs son and we face daily challenges overcoming his disabilities. With him only 9 years old, college is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about for him. We worry more about the daily obstacles and concerns rather than long-term hopes.
In her comments to fellow graduates, it was touching to read the personal experiences Davis shared.
“If my parents had listened to doctors and therapists 20 years ago, I would not be standing here in front of you today giving this speech. At that time, it was suggested that I be placed in a special school because I was diagnosed with Autism,” Davis said. “However, I had parents who believed in me. I had teachers and therapists who saw my abilities and not my disabilities. I was always held to a high standard and was expected to meet those standards. The results? Today, I am a graduate of Wor-Wic Community College.”
Davis said she was sharing her story “because we all have our own backstory that brings us here.” She encouraged her colleagues to, “Embrace yourself for who you are, speak up for yourself and fight for what you believe is right for you. Even though we are now leaving school and entering the real world, we still have a lot of challenges ahead.”
Davis, who aspires to open her own bakery, concluded with one of her favorite quotes: “Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.”
Thanks to Samantha, her family and her college for the inspiration.
Is there any greater joy as a parent than watching your kid do something he enjoys?
At this point, I don’t think there is, and it’s why I try to attend anything and everything my children, ages 11 and 9, are involved in. I can’t make it to every field trip, game or school event, but I try my hardest to be at as many as I can. This effort is largely driven by an obsession of not wanting to miss something. I don’t want to have any regrets later in life about the years raising my kids. I know many parents who feel the same.
Over the last year, Beckett has found a passion for singing and performing on stage. Earlier this month, he and the entire lower school performed a show for the parents. There was tremendous talent on that stage and Beckett seems to relish his involvement. He clearly has a flare for the dramatic and has learned to sing well. The memory for me was when he was actually smiling while singing on stage. He was not nervous. He was enjoying himself and clearly in his element. It’s incredible watching your kid doing something he truly enjoys.
The next week we were in central Pennsylvania for a soccer tournament for Beckett’s travel team. The tourney fell on his birthday weekend (not to mention Mother’s Day). During a lopsided game, there appeared to be an effort to get Beckett a goal for his birthday. His coach put him in with a few minutes left in the game to score a goal. When he finally was able to find net, the look on his face was a mix between jubilation and relief. It may have made the score 6-0, but it was meaningful to him and he clearly was having fun celebrating with his teammates. It appeared to be a group effort to get him a goal and they all seemed to enjoy the moment. While it was different than the excitement from when he was on stage, it was nonetheless special in its own way.
Carson finds delight in the exact opposite sort of things. He’s an introvert and does not want attention. His enjoyment is in the smaller things of life. He’s most comfortable in a small group or even better one-on-one with Pam or me.
One of our favorite routines is after school taking a walk through downtown Berlin. It basically unfolds the exact same way whenever we do it. He likes the routine so we take the exact same route every time and he makes me do the same things, including jumping to touch the Taylor Bank sign on Main Street (and every business sign actually), making sure the tree that we sponsored in his and his brother’s name is still standing and reading the names off the memorial plaques at the corner of West and Main streets. He really enjoys it and giggles through most of it.
The biggest laughs always come when he points to the World of Toys store and then Island Creamery and reacts disappointedly when I tell him I forgot money again. He knows better, but finds it hilarious and calls me crazy.