Reasons to Celebrate at Howard Center School Programs

Burlington, VT— Four Howard Center school programs are planning their end of year celebrations and graduations this spring.  Project SEARCH, Jean Garvin, Fay Honey Knopp and Baird Schools are all planning unique celebrations to thank their students, educators, and families despite the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project SEARCH is a one-year internship program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school. It is focused on students whose goal is competitive employment. The program is a collaboration between community partners including Howard Center, Vocational Rehabilitation, Vermont Agency of Education, South Burlington Schools, and the University of Vermont Medical Center. The program provides young people with disabilities the opportunity to contribute to their communities and society at large by providing them the opportunity to develop marketable job skills which leads to true inclusion.

Project SEARCH, will conduct a completion ceremony for six students on June 3 at 2:30 via Zoom, but prior to this, they are planning a graduation caravan on May 29 to visit students and present them with their diploma. Speakers at the completion ceremony include Stephen Leffler, M.D., president and chief operating officer at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Monica Hutt, commissioner of the Vermont Agency on Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living.

Anne Paradiso, director of school programs at Howard Center, says, “While the sudden transition to remote learning has been difficult for our school communities, staff and students have found new ways to stay connected, advance learning, and continue the advancement of social, emotional and behavioral development.  Everyone involved deserves recognition, particularly the families who were critical in supporting this transition.”

The Garvin Transition Ceremony at the Jean Garvin School in Williston, is a time when students, caregivers, staff and stakeholders all come together to acknowledge and highlight the growth of every student.  This year, prior to the last day of school (June 17), car parades of staff will travel to 24 student homes to hand out certificates and small gifts.  On June 17, the school is planning to broadcast a special recognition award ceremony, and Kelly and Kevin Perline who have been at Jean Garvin for 20 and 18 years respectively will serve as commencement speakers.

The Baird School is also planning a Student Recognition Ceremony ‘Zoom Edition’ celebration for 50 students, by individual classroom teams.  Plans to honor our five 8th grade students who are graduating this year include a caravan complete with balloons and cupcakes.

Fay Honey Knopp in Rutland, an alternative residential school for students in grades 7-12, will recognize students during an end of year tele-video ceremony for their academic excellence, their personal progress, and their growth throughout this school year. Additionally, it is always the tradition to do an end of school year barbeque and a students’ vs. staff sports competition. The event has been adapted with only essential staff participating, and practicing safe social distancing.

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ABOUT HOWARD CENTER: Howard Center has a long and rich history as a trusted provider in the community. With a legacy spanning more than 150 years, we have been providing progressive, compassionate, high-quality care and supports to those in need. Today, we offer an array of exemplary mental health, substance use, and developmental services across the lifespan. As Vermont’s largest social service organization, our 1,600 staff help more than 16,000 people each year in over 60 locations throughout Vermont in collaboration with hundreds of community partners. Howard Center’s 24/7/365 crisis service, First Call for Chittenden County, is available to meet the needs of Chittenden County children, adults, and families in crisis by calling 802-488-7777. Help is here. A United Way of Northwest Vermont Funded Agency.