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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 270, Living life on my terms

Bill Pekarski added 5 new photos — with Anne Pekarski Brougham.
 Day 270, Living life on my terms.

The past couple of weeks have been a wonderful time for so many young adults as they have completed their high school education. For many of them, the next step may be college, or maybe the military, or a trade school, or even entering the workforce. The most important thing is they have reached a milestone in their lives and they understand that it is time to take the next step, wherever that may lead.

They have accumulated years of memories with close friends that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. They have earned our honor and respect for their accomplishments; all of them.

There is a very important reason that I stressed the phrase “all of them.” In every school there are students who attend classes very similar to everyone else. They may have specialized teachers, classes, and support staff; but they work just as hard as the other students. They are part of the school, but often go overlooked as they are not stellar athletes. Likewise, they do not take part in any of the highly touted clubs and organizations. Nor are they going out with their friends on a regular basis as a part of what many of us would consider a “normal” social life.

They are classified as special needs kids but they are so much more than what that moniker implies. They come from loving families who bend over backwards to make certain that they have the same opportunities as other kids. Their families do not see them as a burden and they rejoice in their endeavors, no matter how small or insignificant they may appear, because it means so much to them.

I know some of you are probably wondering what inspired my recollections this evening. Well, let me tell you about my amazing nephew Zethan Brougham.

Zethan took part in the graduation ceremony this year in Bradford. He has been going to school as part of his routine for the past 14 years. Since he is autistic, he has been taking classes as part of a life skills group in Bradford along with other students with similar abilities. This year, five of the eight life skills students classified as seniors were completely omitted from the yearbook as well as the senior announcements in the newspaper. Most of the eight amazing young people from the life skills group were able to don a cap and gown and walk across a graduation stage. For them, this may very well be the biggest achievement of their life. They are proud of themselves and proud to part of a graduating class.

Can you imagine the sadness of buying your high school senior yearbook and not seeing your portrait printed inside, not being in any of the candid photos, not being in any group, and basically not being associated with your class what-so-ever? To add insult to injury, it was stated that these kids did not have senior portraits taken, but upon further investigation, every one of them did. They yearbook staff just never paid strict enough attention to make sure that they were placed with the appropriate classes and given proper recognition.

This event has saddened me beyond belief for my nephew whom I love to death. He is a wonderful and loving boy who has been robbed of the simple joy of having his high school yearbook with a photo of him as a graduating senior. Also, as the newspaper takes their information from the school and the yearbook for their senior editions, they were excluded from that as well.

Luckily the newspaper was able to rectify the situation almost immediately with a beautiful layout including each of the kids and apologizing for the oversight. The yearbook is a little bit tougher problem to solve.

As for my nephew, his money for the yearbook is going to be refunded to him and the school is trying to work with Jostens on printing a “tip-in” page or sort of insert for those affected. They are trying to make things as right as possible, but as a past yearbook staff member I realize that this should have never happened.

The one positive is that now with the newspaper article, Zethan has a picture combined with his other close friends with whom he spent most of his school life. Additionally, an insert to the yearbook would reinforce that feeling of friendship he has with his life skills classmates. In a way, it is more fitting; it’s just sad as to why this happened in the first place.

Hopefully, a lesson is learned from all of this so that it never happens again. Maybe schools and yearbook staffs should look into dedicating a couple of pages to kids like those in life skills. Why not let them have a few pages to show off their Special Olympics medals just like the pages dedicated to the league and district championship sports teams. They truly work just as hard.

Today I want to dedicate my progress to my nephew, Zethan Brougham as well as his friends and senior classmates from his life skills classes at Bradford High School; Kasey Fox, Christopher Howard, Kody Mountain, Bryan Williams, Robert Williams, Harry Gardner, and Nic Spencer. Congratulations to all of you and your families for all of your achievements.


Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS Zethan, Kasey, Christopher, Kody, Bryan, Robert, Harry & Nic for a job well done. I don't know any of you but you have worked hard and deserve the best! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Hold your heads high and be proud of your accomplishments. Best wishes to all of you!

Anonymous said...

Discrimination, this is nothing new for this school system.

Anonymous said...

I know all of these beautiful and kind students! Thank you for supporting them and giving them the recognition they deserve. They work very hard for their achievements!

Tina M. Smith said...

Congratulations to these amazing graduates! Job well done! Also, beautiful tribute by you Bill. It is sad that schools focus on only the trophy students and not those who work just as hard to achieve their goals. Good for you for sticking up for those who deserve it and putting light on their achievements.

Joe Lagrua said...

Bill please let me know if Lagrew Printing can be of any help to print these inserts. Our presses are available to your nephew and his classmates. We will print enough to send copies to all the graduates

Anonymous said...

That is so kind!

Anonymous said...

Congrats to these young people who deserve to be commended, they've worked just as hard as others, they certainly have excelled, I know from experience to have your heart broken from being exempt, but what the devil meant from evil, God will turnn it around for good, God bless these young people
Thank you Bill for sharing this, when I first started reading this my heart was broken for these young people, God bless Joe Lagru for stepping up for these young people, it'll all work out for them!!!!

Anonymous said...

If all else fails do some research on other schools in a different County that can better assist special needs and doesn't treat them any different. I know and understand relocating isn't cheap nor is it a simple process we went through this with our special needs child and pretty much lost everything we had and drove ourselves into a mountain of debt but knowing we did everything we could to give him a fighting chance at a school that is better equipped and doesn't treat him different from other students was well worth every freaking penny.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing. All kids are special.