In many ways, The Children’s Center’s graduation at The University of Southern Mississippi looked like a typical preschool graduation. Some children refused to walk down the aisle, some waved like they were in a parade. There were adorable renditions of “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” sung off-key, passionately, or not at all.
And, as with any children’s graduation ceremony, parents and caregivers stood proudly by, cameras and cell phones in hand, determined to document this sweet moment in their child’s life.
But for the families of The Children’s Center graduates, this day was more than sweet and cute. This day was a symbol of progress made, a culmination of months and years of hard work.
Each of these graduates came to The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at USM, a non-profit that provides innovative therapies to children with disabilities, with obstacles to overcome – from speech and motor delays to feeding difficulties and behavioral struggles. Their days at The Center were filled with fun and hard work, laughter and tears, frustration and celebration. They made friends, built relationships, and learned and grew alongside one another. And often times, the same could be said for their families.
For the families in the audience, graduation was more than a moment. It was a period, an ellipsis, and a question mark all wrapped into one. It signified the end of their child’s time at The Center, but only the beginning of their journey – the first chapter of a yet unwritten book.
Children’s Center graduate Ali Bryant has been with The Children’s Center since she was 8 weeks old. “They have helped us navigate this journey,” said Ali’s mother, Reagan Bryant. “Ali loves it there. On the morning of her last day at The Center, she took her therapist’s hand and waved bye to me. She feels safe and loved there because she is. They truly love her and push her because they know she is capable. I pray as we begin our new journey through the school system that God will put teachers in her path that will love her and push her like this. We are forever grateful for everything they have done for us.”
But the gratitude clearly goes both ways. “We feel so fortunate to be part of these families’ lives,” said Sarah Case-Price, director at The Children’s Center. “It’s hard to put into words what this day means for all of us each year. We are so proud of our graduates and we can’t wait to see where their journeys take them from here. But one thing is for sure – no matter where it leads them, they will have a team of lifelong cheerleaders here at The Children’s Center.”
The Children’s Center for Communication and Development’s graduation took place Wednesday, May 22 at The Trent Lott Center on USM’s Hattiesburg campus, and 32 children received their diplomas.
About The Children’s Center for Communication and Development
The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi is a non-profit that provides cost-free communicative and developmental transdisciplinary services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers while educating, training and supporting families, university students and professionals. For more information, visit www.usm.edu/childrenscenter.