The East Middle sixth-grade band always plays "Pomp and Circumstance." This year was the band's 14th.
The chorus always sings something upbeat. For the past several years, the faculty has joined the student chorus members. This year's selection was "We Can Make a Difference."
Of course, the symbolic implication of the tune selection is that the students can contribute to the community. That is the fervent belief of the entire staff at the Carroll County Education Center, where graduation took place the first Friday of June, just like always.
And just like always, certain special souls have made the extraordinary sacrifices required to assist the profoundly challenged students at the center to transcend their limitations. Each has played an important part.
Mary Louise Clark has been the secretary at the center since just after the Earth cooled. Her nickname is "Mom" -- which should tell you something about her relationships with the staff and students. Mom is the living, breathing embodiment of the patience and love that the center represents.
(Mom will be in Carroll County General Hospital this week. Send her a card.)
At the graduation ceremony, special thanks went to staff and volunteers.
Jane Conner is the "facilitating teacher" at CCEC. Her job is to scout out job sites for the students. Acquiring and building job skills is no easy task for her charges. Both of this year's grads had jobs outside the center.
Chuck Hinerman is a professional bus driver. After he finishes his official duties each morning, he reports to the center and spends his day as a volunteer bus driver, providing that extra effort to make sure students get where they need to go.
Phil Martin coordinates transport at the center. He goes "above and beyond," according to Principal Robin Farinholt, to get the job done.
Tony Poist is the manager at Weis Markets. As part of the center's life skills program, students visit Weis to practice shopping. The visits also give the students a chance to interact with others in the community.
But trips to the market are not uneventful for the center's students. Sometimes students act up or even accidentally wreck a display.
Weis employees and managers are "very supportive," nonetheless, says Farinholt.
Barbara Shrader runs the Dollar Store. Center students go there to practice skills in money-handling. Of course, sometimes problems arise and students have "tantrums," says Farinholt.
That doesn't faze Barbara and her colleagues at the Dollar Store.
Olivia Beach directs the day-care program for the YWCA. In order to help socialization skills, 2- to 4-year-olds from the YWCA visit the center to mingle with center students. This process has the added benefit of allowing the "normal" youngsters to learn tolerance for their contemporaries who are different.
Richard Humbert directed "Pomp and Circumstance" at the center graduation for the 14th and last time this year. After 30 years of teaching, he is retiring.
Like many others, he's played a part in making the center what it is. Some parts are big parts. Some parts are small parts. All parts are important parts.
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