American School for the Deaf Celebrates Graduating Seniors

The American School for the Deaf Class of 2018, lead in by Junior Marshalls Shyanne Brianna Franklin (left) and Jarmal Darnell Puryear (right). Photo credit: Maddie Geerlof

The American School For the Deaf celebrated community, challenges, and new beginnings during the Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2018.

By Maddie Geerlof

The American School for the Deaf (ASD) held its 201st Commencement Ceremony on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, to celebrate the graduating Class of 2018 alongside proud parents, families, faculty, and staff.

Fourteen of the 16 graduates – two were not present at the ceremony – gathered in the newly renovated Visual Communications Center, the first class to celebrate their commencement in the brand new, high-tech facility which was a popular point of conversation throughout the ceremony. 

“Graduates, you are about to receive one of the most exciting and important pieces of paper you will ever own – your diploma,” said ASD Board President Harold Smullen, as he opened the ceremony with a welcome speech on behalf of the Board.

Smullen, who was celebrating his last commencement ceremony as Board president, reminisced on his memories with the graduates and said, “The memories of the smiles on our graduates’ faces – these are moments that will stay with me long after I leave office.” Smullen also said, “Advocate, discover, and experience,” as his final charge and words of advice to the graduates.

Success and ambition were the two prevalent themes throughout the ceremony.

Graduating senior and Class President Craichelle Tatyana Morrison gave a speech that articulated the many challenges she faced including bullying, oppression, and discrimination. Morrison said, “I am a deaf, black woman. I am not the same as everyone else. I am unique. As a deaf person, I have often felt oppressed by the hearing world.” She explained that because the support and encouragement that ASD offered to her, she was able to overcome these challenges and persevered.

Morrison, who began her schooling at ASD when she was 6 years old, said, “I can do everything just like hearing people, except hear! I can do everything. Some people in the hearing world may look down on me or expect that I can’t succeed … but I can do it.”

During her speech, Morrison said she is looking forward to continuing her education and aspires to be a social worker, a change in heart from her original dream of being a photographer. “I want to help people … I have seen people hurting, feeling like the world has forgotten them and nobody understands. I understand. My background, my experiences, who I am – I can help them express their true selves,” said Morrison.

Many smiles and even a few tears of happiness were shared among students as they flipped their tassels and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, a walk that represents the ending of one chapter of the graduates’ lives, but a beginning of a new journey.

Teachers shared congratulatory moments with their students through celebratory high-fives, hugs, and handshakes. Parents watched with pride as their sons and daughters walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

For many of the students, their plan after graduation consists of entering the workforce or continuing their education. According to Keri Weston Thomas, Student Transition Services coordinator, and Desiree Duda, a transition specialist, some students will continue their education through college or vocational schools.  

Other speakers, including Commencement Speaker Luisa Gasco-Soboleski and ASD Executive Director Jeffrey Bravin, extended their congratulations and well-wishes to the graduates as well as shared words of encouragement to the students.

*This article has been modified from the original publication.

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Maddie Geerlof

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