At school for disabled 4 students take big step

June 03, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Wasting no time, Timothy Klim sprang to his feet as soon as he heard his name called during yesterday's commencement ceremony at Cedar Lane School, which enrolls physically and mentally disabled students in Howard County.

The grin on his face showed the 21-year-old student's sense of accomplishment. That grin spread to his parents and to the teachers who taught him during his five years at the school.

Cedar Lane bid farewell to four students at its 10th graduation ceremony, given a festive atmosphere by blue and gold streamers overhead.

"This is the beginning of a very important step in their lives," Superintendent Michael E. Hickey told the students, parents and teachers. "Congratulations, and you have our best wishes for the rest of your lives."

Mount View Middle School's band played "Pomp and Circumstance," and Christopher Bingham, a Cedar Lane graduate several years ago, returned to sing "The Impossible Dream."

For the graduates, finishing school once might have seemed like an impossible dream. In addition to having severe disabilities, some have been hospitalized at times for serious illnesses, while others have had to overcome physical and emotional setbacks.

Andrew Hochrein, a deaf 21-year-old Columbia student who is autistic, went through a period in which he was physically abusive to himself and to others. He was hospitalized for a time before he came back to school.

Now that he can work as long as 1.5 hours on a task, "it's really encouraging," said his group home counselor, Sharon Greene, who is very close to him.

"Being around other people helped a lot, too," said his mother, Mary Ann Hochrein.

She had mixed feelings about seeing her son graduate. "He's reaching a milestone. There will be no more safe arena. But I'm happy he's doing really well."

Leona Simone Harvin, who is mentally retarded and has a seizure disorder, almost was too excited to attend yesterday's ceremony, her mother said. But she made it to her seat halfway through the ceremony, her hair tied in a small bun, grinning ear-to-ear as she received her certificate.

"I'm very proud of her," said her mother, Celestine Carlton, a licensed social worker. "It's been a long haul. I'm just really proud of her. It proves you don't have to put your kid away."

Lori Ann Brann, who has multiple disabilities including cerebral palsy, can't speak but was able to give welcoming remarks through a "Speak Easy" machine that lets her play recorded messages. She has a job doing assembly work.

"She's a remarkable young lady," said her homeroom teacher, Marya Pecukonis. "She's been able to overcome her disability, through technology and advances in the medical field. They've been able to control her seizure [episodes]."

Mr. Klim, meanwhile, won the Howard County Council Award, given to an outstanding senior. He also gave a short graduation address, thanking his teachers for their help and giving appreciation to his parents "for always being there."

"I will remember our P.E. [physical education] games and my work at Valu Food," he said. "After graduation, I plan to get a job. The Class of 1994 bids you farewell."

It was an emotional ceremony for Mr. Klim's mother, Margaret Klim. "I was sad," she said. "This is such a safe place for him. It was like a big family. Now he'll be going into the world."

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