With the bright June sun as their guide, a caravan of educators traveled 300 miles yesterday past corn fields, farms, rolling hills, rivers and dusty roads to connect with the waiting, happy faces of this year’s crop of graduating seniors.
The first stop for the entourage from the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES was at the home of graduate James Stanton, who was greeted not only by educators, but also by police officers and firefighters rolling their red lights up the road as part of the welcome.
Like his classmates, he was given a cap and gown to wear and presented with his diploma. The Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association, which allocates $5,000 each year for scholarships, presented Stanton with a cash gift, as the union did for seniors in other WSWHE BOCES locations who graduated Friday and today. Each senior was also given a personalized “swag bag” made by teaching assistant Loretta LaPointe and filled with homemade treats and coupons.
Teachers and aides spoke about Stanton’s many accomplishments.
“James is such a great writer. He loves to write about artificial intelligence. He is great at graphic design,” said teacher Georgianna Bull.
The student’s mother, Esther Stanton, called out teaching assistant Scott Palmer.
“I’ve always looked for positive role models for my son,” said Esther Stanton. “Scott is amazing. He was our blessing.” During the pandemic shutdown, she said Palmer talked with her son every morning after sitting in on Google Meets with teachers to learn what Stanton’s assignments were. Then he would help the senior work through them.
In rural Cambridge, traveling past low mountains and acres of sun-splashed fields, teachers met with Austin Dailey and his family.
“He’s worked really hard. It’s nice to see his family and share excitement for his success,” said Carol Meeker.
Senior Timothy Finn III, who lives in Greenwich, said his favorite class was English, and his eyes lit up when he realized that Mrs. Bull, his English teacher, was outside his home.
Finn had poems published in the school’s newsletter, along with short stories and drawings. He played the part of Rev. Samuel Parris in reading “The Crucible” out loud in class, and yesterday outside his home, teachers reminded him of his wonderful rendition and accents while enacting the part of the Puritan minister and his role in the Salem witch trials.
“I have a senior at home who graduated Monday, so I know first-hand how hard it is for them to be separated from their friends, and how important it is to celebrate this,” said BOCES science teacher Darcy Pietropaolo.
“I’m going to miss him!” said Erica Perreault, a social studies teacher and Finn’s case manager.
As teachers and aides holding brightly decorated signs gathered on lawns, on roads and in driveways, they filled the air with whoops and shout-outs to their beloved students. They also floated joy like loosened dandelion seeds at seeing each other.
“This is the collegial piece we’ve been missing due to the pandemic,” said Meeker.
In 38 years of taking part in BOCES senior graduations, Sandie Carner-Shafran has never quite done it like this, and she was moved to tears many times throughout the day, marveling at students’ accomplishments and saddened by not being able to see them.
“I miss him,” she’d say, walking down the driveway with a big smile to greet her students along with principal Shawn Hunziker.
“If only people could see our kids and the impact that BOCES has had on these students and their families,” said Carner-Shafran, a teaching assistant and NYSUT Board member.
Yesterday, a parent came forward to meet her in the driveway, telling her “We weren’t sure how to help our son.” BOCES provided that help, and that student, Shane Dumond, rode about an hour and half each way, every school day, from Indian Lake to Saratoga to get the education and skills he needed at the Exceptional Learners Division of BOCES.
In Schuylerville, standing on the lawn outside his home (pictured above), John Fisher publicly thanked teachers and staff for the education they provided to his son, James.
“They were absolutely fantastic. Every one of them,” he said, his voice trembling. “He has special needs. The school helped him.”
As teachers called out to James beyond the driveway, they shouted “Go Fisher Cat!” When asked how he got the nickname, he grinned. “It’s because I was so feisty at the beginning of the year!”
Fisher said he is going to continue his education with a half-day class in learning about HVAC systems, and then work in that field with his father.
Seniors at the BOCES Southern Adirondack Educational Center’s North campus location were honored with a virtual graduation on Friday, and each one was surprised afterward with a visit from teachers outside their home.
On Tuesday, the Career and Technical Education seniors graduated at the Saratoga location with a drive-through ceremony honoring their achievements.