May is filled with anticipation and excitement at BHMA, as we prepare to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates. This year was no exception, as six graduates crossed the stage to receive a Certificate of Completion honoring their work in our Two-Year Transition Program. Graduates have spent the past two years focused on learning independent living skills, working in vocational internships, and building confidence by expanding their musical repertoire.
Visionary Award recipient, State Representative Ellen Story, was honored for her exemplary career in public service. She noted “there should be places like (BHMA) all over the country. This is a haven, a safe place, where people can be nurtured and feel wonderful about themselves.” Commencement speaker and Visionary Award honoree Cammie McGovern, a novelist noted for giving voice to young adults with disabilities and herself a mother of a son with autism, spoke to the impact our graduates have had, and will continue to have, on those around them. Cammie stated, “Your enjoyment of music was one of the first opportunities for your parents to see the real you….to separate you from your diagnosis. I guarantee it was electrifying, and they loved the way you loved music. It gave your parents a glimpse of more possibilities, more joy.” She noted that by performing at concerts and other community events, BHMA students inspire other families of children with disabilities to “imagine the possibilities, that their child could surpass expectations.” She encouraged our graduates by stating “your passions should continue to define you. You won’t need any miracles, because you already are one.” Congratulations to our Class of 2016! Here are excerpts from each of the graduate’s speeches:
Harry: "I decided to come to BHMA because I needed a push to surpass the limits of my talents. I've grown and gotten much wiser. My confidence has grown to a whole, unexpected level at BHMA, especially when it comes to performing in front of a large group of people. I used to feel very scared when I had to perform, but thanks to the support of so many people, I pressed through that wall that was holding me back, and I've conquered that fear. I can't wait to see what the future holds for me as I continue down my path to becoming a better and smarter person.
Pat L.: I have learned a lot of new things and done a lot of things at BHMA. I have tried a lot of new foods. I learned good cooking skills. I learned how to cook pancakes and burgers. Music and Human Service class is very good. I learned about practicing. I learned about work. I play the piano at the nursing home for older adults. I accompany the songs by myself. They like my music. It makes them feel very good. It makes me feel great. I like Special Olympics bowling and basketball. I like to play basketball with my friends. I have learned to be a good winner and a good loser. Thank you everybody.
Connor: Before I came to BHMA, I was a beginner musician. Here, I've had great piano and voice lessons with great teachers. I feel like I'm a better musician now. In MHS, we put together a music program with a theme. We perform songs that the nursing home residents like to listen to. In MHS I've learned great skills like participating with a group, singing a solo, communicating with older adults, and how to call to confirm our gig. I also learned about work here in the Pioneer Valley. I've learned how to do all sorts of jobs. My favorite job was working at the Dakin Humane Society. I've made many good friends at BHMA. I have friends I like to chat with, go on walks with, play on sports teams with. It feels so incredible to have so many friends.
Pat Q.: Before I came to BHMA, I was kind of nervous. But I said to myself: "I should give myself the best chance of bettering the skills I got." My favorite parts here were hanging out with friends, my music lessons, music ensembles, and going out in the community. Being in the men's apartment and hanging out with my apartment mates was great. It was challenging learning how to compromise. but I learned to give people space and privacy. We had a lot of good times together. It's wonderful to have so many great people around me. I liked learning about managing my money. I learned to stick to my budget, and how to save up for a long time for something.
Carly: When I first came to BHMA, I felt happy. I felt excited because I went to college. One activity I enjoyed was singing and learning music because I challenged myself to learn new music and I learned quickly. I loved bowling and being on a Special Olympics team. It was awesome! During my time at BHMA, I learned a lot about shopping for myself at the grocery store. I also learned how to do banking and budgeting. BHMA is amazing!
Sasha: At BHMA, I learned a lot about being in a band. Sometime you have to compromise, like playing songs you might not want to. I've learned a lot about how to communicate with the other band members. I like our big performances. I've learned performance skills, like making good eye contact. I used to get nervous in front of an audience, but I've gotten a lot more confident. My life has changed so much since coming to BHMA. Now that I"m more confident with my music and with people, I feel like I can be more independent. I feel like I can have more opportunities. I can do anything I set my mind to.