Fedcap 2017 Graduation Inspires All

Fedcap 2017 Graduation Inspires All

Fedcap’s annual Graduations are among the most inspiring events on our calendar. They take on special meaning because of the barriers that individuals must overcome to graduate. The Fedcap Career Design School, Fedcap School and Easterseals Child Development Centers all celebrated graduations in June, in moving ceremonies that inspired all who attended. 

On Wednesday June14th over 400 people gathered at John Jay College to celebrate Fedcap’s Career Design School Graduation ceremony. The joyous event recognized the courage and achievements of a remarkable group of individuals who overcome barriers and challenges to graduate.

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon thanked the Fedcap board for their vision, and commitment to supporting the work of Fedcap. She offered powerful words for the graduates. “This day is the heart and soul of the work we do at Fedcap. This is about jobs, a great education, a living wage and a career.”

Mark O’Donoghue, Fedcap Board Chairman, said in a taped message that “it takes a tremendous amount of courage and commitment to start something and see it all the way through. Because of your courage and commitment doors will open to you that were previously shut.”

Don Harreld, Senior VP of Fedcap’s Education Practice Area, served as emcee for the event. He introduced Fedcap Board Member Ken Raisler, who thanked the graduates’ families, friends and partners for their support. “As you look out at the audience and see your families, friends and loved ones, I hope you are feeling the overwhelming sense of pride in yourselves that they feel about you. I encourage you to continue to believe in yourselves; to be bold, continue to work hard, and to pursue your dreams.”

Ken presented Fedcap’s Excellence in Vocational Education Award to Arnie Doren, ACCES VR Regional Business Relations Coordinator. In accepting the award Arnie thanked Fedcap for a 32- year partnership characterized by successful collaboration in helping individuals with disabilities identify their skills and strengths, and get the training and support they need to succeed in the workplace.

Graduates and Alumni of the Career Design School provided powerful testimony to the impact of Fedcap on their lives. James Branch graduated from Fedcap’s Security Training Program with support from Fedcap staff, particularly instructor Gloria Henry, James moved from unemployment and government assistance to landing his dream job as a security supervisor, where he supervises over 500 security guards.

“The Security Training program got me reenergized and refocused, and gave me renewed confidence in my ability to get a job,” he said. “It put me back on the career ladder, climbing to the top.”

Board member Malvina Kay introduced Yashira Cruz – “a remarkable young woman with a powerful story.” Yashira earned a Bachelor’s Degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College before suffering from depression and falling out of the workforce. She took a chance and enrolled in Fedcap’s Home Health Aide Training Program, to support herself while she pulled her life together and worked towards her dream. Today Yashira is completing a Master’s Degree in clinical social work, while gaining valuable experience working for Fedcap.

To spirited applause, she told the crowd – “I found Fedcap at exactly the right time in my life. To the Fedcap 2017 graduates I say this – Take a chance on yourself, and do whatever you can to accomplish your goals!”

Alumni speaker Minurka Marte was introduced to the stage by Fedcap board member Larry Ach. Minurka, who is deaf, talked about her struggles to support herself and her children after emigrating to New York City from the Dominican Republic. Fedcap provided her with American Sign Language interpreters and other supports so that she could graduate from the agency’s Total Facilities Management Program. Minurka now works for Fedcap, and for the first time in her life has secure, supported employment and a living wage.

Minurka thanked Fedcap staff for helping her not just in training but also in financial literacy – how to manage money, pay bill, set up a bank account and navigate healthcare. “Because of their help I am independent, and my life is stable,” she said.

Christy Reeves, CEO of Single Stop, a new member of the Fedcap family of agencies, closed the event by thanking the graduates for their extraordinary courage and commitment, and the Fedcap community of stakeholders for their tireless working in making the Power of Possible a reality.

On June 13th, 15 students graduated from the Fedcap School, earning both a Certificate of Completion and a State of New Jersey high school diploma. It was the largest graduating class in the school’s history and the most successful in terms of transition plans. “All of our students broke through significant barriers and stuck with the program to earn high school diplomas,” Fedcap School Director Luanne Macri said” “They are planning for the future and on the road to success.”

Easterseals New York’s four Child Development Centers also celebrated graduations in June. The centers offer unique environments were children of all abilities learn together, and meet a growing need for high-quality child care for pre-school children and their parents. At the graduations, children entertained families and staff with songs, and received individual awards.

Fedcap 2016 Graduation

Fedcap 2016 Graduation

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” 

Henry David Thoreau

Graduation is a special time in the lives of people young and old. It is a time of joy and celebration of the attainment of an important life goal. It is a time to look to the future, to contemplate the next chapter of life with a renewed sense of accomplishment and hope.  

At Fedcap, graduation takes on special meaning because our graduates have overcome so many barriers and challenges to achieve so much. Those who graduated from our Easter Seals New York child development centers, Fedcap School, and Career Design School celebrated this special day with a joy and spirit that was an inspiration to all.  


On June 15, over 160 people received graduation certificates from Fedcap’s Career Design School in a rousing ceremony at John Jay College. Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon delivered a powerful message to graduates of Fedcap’s Security; Facilities Management, Home Care, Culinary Arts, Youth & Young Adults and Document Imaging programs – “This is a day that embodies inspiration, aspiration, courage and commitment.” Fedcap Board Chair Mark O’Donoghue added – “We see today the fruits of what everybody worked so hard to achieve.” 

Fedcap graduates Joyell Gilliard and Chastity Salas, and graduate alumna Anita Peterson, gave powerful speeches in which they recounted the significant barriers each had overcome to graduate from a Fedcap program. These remarkable individuals inspired the crowd with their stories of hardship, courage and perseverance – by the end of their speeches, audience members rose for a prolonged standing ovation.  

Fedcap presented its Excellence in Vocational Rehabilitation award to ACCES-VR counselor Brian Alvarado. In his gracious remarks, Mr. Alvarado thanked Fedcap for its vision in helping to create ACCES-VR’s first-ever paid internship program, providing hundreds of youth with invaluable experience in building sustainable career paths.


Four preschools operated by Easter Seals New York participated in the joyous spring ritual of graduation. At the Bronx Child Development Center, 65 children with special needs graduated into kindergarten. Close to 200 people attended the ceremony. Parents showed up in their Sunday best, and the kids feasted on goodies at the ceremony’s end.  

At Port Jervis 60 children participated in a moving up ceremony, and entertained their parents with songs. At Valhalla, 125 children graduated from preschool to kindergarten, ending the day’s events with a carnival. Aris Pavlides, Senior VP, Easter Seals New York, said that the carnival helped to spread joy throughout the community and also raised funds for the school’s capital campaign.

At Monticello, each child was presented with an award – funniest, most helpful, best smile, etc. – after marching in to Pomp and Circumstance. Without Easter Seals New York, these children would be less prepared to transition to a fully integrated educational environment, said Craig Stenning, Fedcap Senior Vice President, Occupational Health. After the ceremony, a child’s grandmother said to him, with tears in her eyes, “I never dreamed that she could do this well.” 


Eight students graduated from our Fedcap School in a moving Commencement Ceremony in Orange New Jersey on June 14, 2016.  The Fedcap School is a private school for students ages 14 through 21 who are eligible for Special Education and/or Related Services. For the second year in a row, four students have successfully applied to and been accepted to local and out of state community colleges. Additionally, two students have been accepted into technical programs for Culinary Arts and Emergency Medical Technician training, and two students will continue receiving resources from the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities as they work towards self-sufficiency and economic independence.

The ceremony included an original student music video and a poetry reading by the graduates. Keynote speaker Principal Baruti Kefele, a renowned educational speaker and author, spoke of student empowerment and the will to achieve excellence.


On Friday, June 24 the Kessler Center presented certificates of completion to two individuals who are graduating from the program. The Kessler Center provides comprehensive services to children and young adults ages 5-21 who have disabilities and complex challenges, many who have been unsuccessful in other programs. 

The ceremony began with comments by Craig Stenning, Executive Director of Easter Seals New York and Sr. VP for Occupational Health for Fedcap, followed by Kessler Center Director of Education Jason Lustig, who recounted heartwarming stories about the two graduates and described their growth and development. Staff and student awards were presented by Andreas Rau, Executive Staff Assistant to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, members of The Rochester Sheriff and Police Departments, as well as staff members.

Special thanks are due to Easter Seals New York Western Region board member Kyle Bollinger for providing refreshments and games for the event, and to Wegmans, a family-owned Rochester-based grocery store chain that is a supporter of Easter Seals New York.