Special Education program at BOCES Hewes Educational Center held

Submitted Photo The Class of 2017 awaits presentation of diplomas at the Hewes Educational Center in Ashville on June 12.

ASHVILLE — A recognition ceremony for graduating seniors in the Special Education program of the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES at the Hewes Educational Center in Ashville was held Monday, June 12. The event was attended by family and friends of the nine members of the Class of 2017.

Following the processional and Pledge of Allegiance, Supervisor of Special Education Adam Padd welcomed attendees before school counselors Wendy Darling and Aaron Taylor helmed the presentation of awards and scholarships.

Dixon Roberto of Jamestown High School and Kyle Pitts of the Panama Central School District were both recipients of the inaugural Terra Dourlain Work Experience Scholarship. Terra was the manager of the Chautauqua County Humane Society’s 2nd Chances Thrift Store in Jamestown, which is a partner in the Work Experience program.

Terra passed away unexpectedly in December 2016 and her family was in attendance at Monday’s commencement. Her mother, Betty Dourlain, helped to present the awards. Terra was instrumental in establishing the Hewes partnership with the Humane Society and developing the campus EScrapping and rEfinishing programs. The scholarship was established in Terra’s memory to reward those who have, like Terra, overcome challenges and are on the path to becoming hard-working members of the community. The $200 scholarship is awarded based on the following criteria: active in Work Experience program, history of successful work placements, headed to employment with realistic goals, established work ethic, positive attitude and team player. Roberto and Pitts also each received a clock engraved with a quote from Terra: “Now get to work and don’t be late.”

The audience then heard a few inspiring words from Roberto, the senior representative.

“People have doubted me my whole life and before BOCES I was the kid who wasn’t going to college, I wasn’t going to make it in life,” said Roberto, who has been accepted at Jamestown Community College and plans to study liberal arts. “When I came to BOCES, the staff here never gave up on me. They always pushed me to be my best. Today we prove everyone who has ever doubted us wrong. So, graduates, never give up on yourself and when something goes wrong, persevere to make it go right.”

Roberto, who was very active in the rEfinishing program where students transform donated furniture and decor items, is also set to begin a job at Fancher Chair in Jamestown this week.

Every member of the Class of 2017 enlisted an E2CCB staff member to reflect on their progress. The educators offered heartfelt words of encouragement and wisdom to the students.

Padd then addressed the graduates and gave them a sweet sendoff titled “Cotton Candy Moments” and handed each graduate their certificate. The slideshow presentation gave an overview of the history and evolution of the spun sugar treat. More than 100 years after its unveiling at the World’s Fair at the start of the 20th century, the confection is key in for many enjoying shared experiences.

“You have proven you have the 21st century skills needed to be successfully employed,” said Padd. “You are problem-solvers. You have worked through hard days, hard tests, hard relationships, hard problems. You decided to come to BOCES, where real-life learning happens.”

Padd said the graduates are on track to have many more “cotton candy moments” because of what they’ve learned, their earning potential, their ability to understand the world around them, their desire to further their education, their confidence and commitment to helping their community.

“Since you have the knowledge and skills taught from your families and your excellent BOCES program,” said Padd, before presenting each grad with their certificate and a bag of cotton candy. “There is a much higher probability you will have: A place to be, family and friends, and cash — which all lead to more cotton candy moments.”

The Class of 2017 comprises: Genesis Torres from Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School; Layton Franklin from Chautauqua Lake Central School; Matthew Mohney, Dixon Roberto and Carl Silsby from Jamestown High School; Nathan Johnson and Kyle Pitts from Panama Central School; John Lutgen from Sherman Central School; and Ashley Reagle from Southwestern Central School.

The ceremony concluded with the presentation of certificates followed by a reception with cake and punch.