The Pines Bridge School may have graduated the smallest class of any school in the area but for the parents, siblings, friends and teachers of the graduates, it was the biggest commencement of all.
After making their way down the aisle, some using walkers or other assisting devices, the graduates took their places on the dais while Principal Judy Spaulding sang their praises. They weren’t praised for perfect SAT scores or admissions to top colleges, but for mastering everyday tasks and sharing their joy in life with others.
Spaulding called Greenburgh’s Michelle Alvarez “a terrific conversationalist and an independent, determined young woman.” She cited Jack Purcell of Pleasantville for his love of music and participation in the Chappaqua Volunteer Fire Department.
Danny Fortuniewicz of Yonkers was praised for “always being the first to volunteer for any job that needed to be done.” Finally, Jonathan Robinson of Peekskill was noted for his ability to “lift the blues away” with his friendly smile and genuine concern for others.
Parents and friends celebrated the students for reaching many milestones during their years at Pines Bridge, a school for students with multiple disabilities.
After progressing to the front of the gym, the graduates each had an opportunity to speak, some using assisting devices. A video was shown depicting the students as young children and as they are today.
Lindsay Fortuniewicz, who attended the ceremony with her parents and siblings, said “I’ve been through everything with my brother” so it was important to celebrate his graduation. Denise Lombardo, Danny’s mother, said “it shows the great strides my son has made.”
The Pines Bridge School serves students ages 5 to 21, using specialized programs that emphasize communication, mobility and independence. It is part of Putnam & Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).