Eight students graduate from Independent Hill
Jun 08, 2012 (News & Messenger - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
INDEPENDENT HILL, Va. -- The message to the Independent Hill School graduating class Thursday was to never stop pursuing your dreams.
"Throughout my life, I had been told I would never be able to do great things in life," said guest speaker Jerry Michael Holy, a 2006 graduate of Osbourn Park Senior High School and a 2010 graduate of George Mason University with a degree in integrative studies.
Holy is a Special Olympics Project UNIFY coordinator who uses sports and education programs to activate young people to develop school communities where all foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.
"Special Olympic is more than competition. It is a part of my life. People of all abilities have the right to pursue their dreams," he said. "My advice to you, the Class of 2012, is to never let go of your dreams."
The Class of 2012 included: Michael Joseph Boehm, Brentsville Senior High School; Leonard Anthony Codella IV, BattlefieldSeniorHighSchool; Darius Raoul Delgados, Osbourn Park Senior High School; Felicia Lynn Douglas, Stonewall Jackson Senior High School; Cesar Augusto and Julio Cespedes Figueroa, Stonewall Jackson Senior High School; Zachary Scott Russell, Gar-Field Senior High School; and Dylan Vance Steinke, Potomac Senior High School.
The ceremony also included music. When Codella performed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "You Raise Me Up" on his saxophone, many pulled out their cellphones and video recorders. He received a standing ovation from families, county and school district officials, and students.
"Lenny has a very special talent for music," Independent Hill Principal Jodi Pankowski said. "We've enjoyed his holiday concerts for years, and we are hoping that tradition will continue."
As the graduates received their diplomas, they were given an opportunity to speak or have an administrator speak for them during a slide show with photos of them.
When administrators noted that Russell enjoyed playing the piano, he took the opportunity to sit down at the piano and play a little.
The ceremony concluded with teaching assistant Kathy Glass singing, "You'll Never Walk Alone," a cappella.
"Thank you for entrusting them to us," Pankowski said.
Staff writer Aileen M. Streng can be reached at 703-530-3907.
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