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.