LA PLATA, Md. (May 25, 2016)—Defining your own successes and having the courage to move forward in life were just two of the important key messages shared with graduates and guests at Charles County Public Schools' (CCPS) first official 2016 graduation. On May 20, eight graduates of the Adult Independence Program, also known as AIP, were honored for their successes in a ceremony held at North Point High School that celebrated each of their individual accomplishments.
Honored graduates this year included Crystal Adkins, Nicholas Adriani, Elisha Frimpong, Isaac Green, Stephon McClellan-Dempsey, Robert Mullins, Tiskisha Robison and Alice Whitney.
At the start of the ceremony, each graduate walked in front of an auditorium filled with guests to take their seat on the stage. These students were ready to celebrate one thing they all had in common—the completion of their AIP studies. In the same moment of time when each graduate took the stage, the group shared something else with each other that day: a smile that beamed from ear to ear and a strong sense of accomplishment. The excitement of these students to celebrate their latest accomplishment was on full display.
What made the ceremony unique was the recognition of each graduate by guest speaker Adriane Faulks-McCann. Faulks-McCann is the founder of Aaron's Hope Inc., a non-profit organization she launched several years ago to help community members with autism learn the skills necessary to be successful within the workforce. Prior to the opening of the organization, Faulks-McCann worked as part of the AIP program and serves as a home and hospital teacher for CCPS.
During her remarks, Faulks-McCann shared her memories of working with each graduate and reflected on their AIP experiences. "You are my motivation. My hope. Hope is the healing which leads to opportunity and the possibilities that empower. And here you are—I commend you for having the courage to keep moving. You are all awesome," Faulks-McCann said to the graduates.
She talked about Adkins' ability to "dress to the nines" and admired her for her commitment to being a team player. She described Adriani as a patient and gentle person who loved to gift her with handmade earrings. "Your perseverance is strong Nick. You keep on pushing through," Faulks-McCann said to Adriani. She described Frimpong, who goes by Eli, as a "tall glass of awesome" and an extremely dedicated worker, and said if you ever wanted to hear the truth from someone to go and talk to Green. "He tells it like it is," she said.
After graduation, McClellan-Dempsey plans to work at the Arc of Southern Maryland, a place Faulks-McCann said his skills will serve him well. "You are one of the most detail-oriented people I know," she told him. Mullins also plans to work at the Arc of Southern Maryland and was described by Faulks-McCann as a gentleman who loved to compete in track and field events and work as part of a team.
Robison and Whitney are well known among AIP staff for their love of helping others and for being kind and considerate. Whitney plans to work at the Spring Dell Center and Robison will continue her employment through Creative Options, a program that assists community members with disabilities in transitioning into employment and other skill-based training programs. "This is the beginning of defining your own successes," Faulks-McCann said in her closing remarks.
Prior to the handing out of diplomas, Christina Sprague, a CCPS instructional specialist who works with students in AIP, told the graduates to celebrate their accomplishments and to remember there are people who will always support them.
"We are very proud of your accomplishments and are proud to have had the opportunity to work with you over the last three years. You are not alone and have a whole community here to support you," Sprague said.
AIP provides students with community-based learning experiences that give each student the experiences of an independent adult. Throughout the duration of the program, which is designed for students ages 18 to 21, students acquire adult skills and apply them to community environments.
Students in the program are trained to search for employment and to complete job applications, as well as how to access the public transportation system. There were 13 participating employers in the 2015-16 program.