Bucks IU celebrates graduation

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

Mr. John D’Angelo (left) and Dr. Mark Hoffman (right) pose with Brooke Rosenberg as she holds her Graduation Certificate.

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) is celebrating the success of more than three dozen students who are graduating from its educational programs this school year.

Donning blue caps and gowns, the graduating students joyously took center stage on June 4 during an emotional salute to their many accomplishments. The Bucks IU hosted the celebration in the auditorium of the Life Sciences Building at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA.

Hundreds of family members and friends, Bucks IU staff members and representatives of the school districts served by the Intermediate Unit watched with delight as the graduates smiled, waved, and gave thumbs up to those in the audience. “We are here to honor your hard work and dedication,” Bucks IU Executive Director, Dr. Mark Hoffman, told the graduating students. “We are very proud of you.”

The Bucks IU, based in Doylestown, offers educational programs to students with autism, emotional needs and multiple disabilities at various sites throughout Bucks County. The students live in Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Some of the 2024 graduates have been served by the agency since they were very young. Others joined the Bucks IU community in the last few years to attend programs for students aged 18 to 21. The initiatives for older students focus on community-based instruction, volunteer opportunities and supervised work experiences.

Mary Baltes, a graduating student from Central Bucks School District and the Bucks IU College Connections program, served as the celebration’s keynote speaker. She acknowledged there will be challenges for every one of the graduates and implored all of them to stay strong. “My goal for the Class of 2024 is to never give up and push through any challenges in your life,” Mary said.

John D’Angelo, President of the Bucks IU Board of School Directors said while there will be difficulties along the way, the graduates should focus on the positive as they enter adulthood. “There is a horizon of victories waiting for each and every one of you,” D’Angelo said.

The graduates’ life journeys will follow many different paths. Bucks IU Skills Trainer David Fox shared what lies ahead for the students as Hoffman and D’Angelo presented the graduates with their diplomas. Some will enroll in area adult day programs or continue their education, Fox said. Others will enter the work force. Bucks IU graduate Stanaya Blackwell plans to both work and attend college, Fox said. Stanaya, a student in the Bucks IU Decisions program, recently completed an internship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Career Path Internship Program. “She had the distinction of being the first intern accepted to the child life department,” Fox said. She plans to continue to work in the CHOP child life department and take classes at the Community College of Philadelphia. “Stanaya, you are going to do big things,” Fox said.

In all, 39 students are graduating from Bucks IU programs this school year. “We have witnessed so much remarkable growth and resilience in these students,” said Gina Meissler, the Bucks IU Program Director of Related Services. “Students, you have taught us the importance of perseverance. You will conquer whatever lies ahead. Congratulations to the Class of 2024.”

The celebration of the graduates’ success continued after the ceremony in the foyer of the university’s Life Science Building. The grads and their loved ones enjoyed some cake and refreshments, took memorable photos and shared lots of celebratory hugs. Parents were overwhelmed with pride in their now adult children.

“Awesome” is how Annette and Alan Rosenberg describe their daughter, 2024 Bucks IU graduate Brooke Rosenberg. A student in the Bucks IU Project SEARCH program, Brooke has received a couple job offers, her mother said. “She has to make up her mind,” Annette Rosenberg said. “We are so proud of her. We are so grateful to the staff at the Bucks IU. They are great.”

The emotions were equally as joyous for Kevin Hearn, a graduate of the Bucks IU STEP program, and his family. Kevin’s older brother, Joey, pledged to support him along his life path. “I hope Kevin becomes more independent and he finds something that he’s interested in and happy doing in the future,” Joey Hearn said.

A dedicated group of Bucks IU staff members work together each year to stage the graduation ceremony. “Our students need a safe place that is small, intimate and will allow for flexibility,” said Bucks IU Program Coordinator, Joanna Davis, who also was one of the graduation organizers. “I think it is important for our students to recognize the hard work they have put in through their school years. They have overcome many obstacles, and this is a special way to celebrate them and their families.”

Davis worked with Bucks IU Supervisor of Special Education Hillary FitzMaurice; IU Program Coordinators Sara Walsh and Dawn Yeselavage; Supervisor of Bucks IU Post-Secondary and Adult Programs and Services Lorie McCrory; and Bucks IU Educational Consultant Beth Teitleman to coordinate the graduation. “It is a joy to work with our graduation team to plan a ceremony that celebrates our amazing students and their amazing accomplishments,” Davis said.