A few months ago, I received an invitation to attend a graduation ceremony at Grafton’s Ruth Birch Center. The ceremony was scheduled on a Wednesday afternoon and I noted it on my calendar. As the graduation day approached, I found myself engulfed with a multitude of pressing deadlines. I was also scheduled to leave for vacation in a few days and thought to myself, “I’ll attend a portion of the ceremony to support our clients, but then I really need to get back to work.” As I entered the theater ten minutes before the ceremony, a young female client dressed in a beautiful navy blue dress handed me a program and said, “Thank you so much for coming. It is going to be a great day.” I retreated to the back of the theater as the room was filled with proud parents, committed agency representatives, compassionate employees and dedicated friends.
As the inspirational music commenced, our nine graduates dressed in cap and gowns entered the theater to a crowded room of their supporters. Cheers, whistles and applause resonated in the auditorium as the graduates were escorted by their teachers and advocates. Allyson Bateman Davis, Principal delivered the opening and welcoming remarks with poise and grace. This was followed by a moving presentation of the diplomas led by the case management team. As each client’s name was called, I felt a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment towards not only the clients, but also those that supported them during their journey—employees, parents, and others. After the last diploma was handed out, Allyson invited those in the audience to speak. Without hesitation, several clients approached the stage to thank case managers, teachers and staff for their support and encouragement. As several parents expressed their gratitude to Grafton staff for their unwavering commitment to their children, I exchanged glances with Executive Director, Kelly Coffman. Both Kelly and I had tears in our eyes. The ceremony closed with heartfelt remarks from Nicole Hiles, Assistant Principal and heartwarming comments and thanks from Case Manager, Aimee Secrist. And to think I was going to leave the ceremony after making a brief appearance! The ceremony was a beautiful testament and reminder of the everlasting impact that we have on our clients on a daily basis. I feel incredibly proud and blessed to work for an organization that encourages others to set goals, take risks and build dreams.