St. Matthew’s Graduates Lauded for their Warmth, Perseverance, Enthusiasm
Charming, helpful, independent, enthusiastic, determined, persistent and committed.
Those are just a few of the words used to describe the eight St. Matthew’s graduates in the Class of 2017. Faculty and staff members paid tribute to each student before presenting them with a graduation certificates on June 20.
In addition to the certificates, they each received an award named for the late Bob Newman, a former Center for Special Services student. Graduating students complete a project about their time in school and receive a certificate and medal from the Newman family.
Khadijh Shareef of Yonkers said her son, Jilali, loved St. Matthew’s and worked at the Visiting Nurse Service, New York Power Authority and Old Navy. “I cannot thank them enough,” she said of the program. “They’re a miracle, these people.”
St. Matthew’s has a Therapeutic Support Program for Developmentally Delayed students and an AIIM – Applied Intensive Intervention Model – program for those who are on the autism spectrum or who would benefit from the program. All the graduates worked at job sites in the community.
After the ceremony at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in White Plains, guests enjoyed a meal prepared by students and served by staff members. The buffet included pulled chicken, ziti, tossed salad, pasta salad and sloppy joes.
These are the graduates and comments from school employees about their accomplishments:
Thomas Black – Thomas came to our program four years ago. He was very regimented in his … schedule and did not want to deviate from it. Getting him to try new things was sometimes challenging. … Thomas is a very bright and sweet student, often exclaiming his love for staff, especially when he thought he was in trouble. … I can’t imagine my day starting without his enthusiastic smile, his good morning greeting, our walks in the hallway and our afternoon tea time. … In his educational journey, he has far beyond exceeded our expectations. He was an asset to our maintenance crew … and also worked at Old Navy. (Tess Giorgio, teaching assistant)
Myra Estrada – I was thrilled to get to work with Myra again this year. Last year, she participated in our vocational program and worked at Old Navy, Pizzeria Uno and Visiting Nurse Service. Myra has shown great leadership skills and can always be counted on to help out at events and as a leader for her peers. This year she attended our Center for Career Services program and participated in the office skills, bakery and retail program. Myra, you have grown to become a beautiful and mature young woman. You have shown us that you are ready to leave us and to spread your wings. (Katie Lockwood, school social worker)
Nastassia Gyan – I have been very grateful to be her teacher during this school year, where I have watched her learn and demonstrate all those skills she has acquired. We are all very sad that we haven’t had the opportunity to work with Nastassia sooner. It’s been nice to hear that she stated many times that she likes coming to our school. We all have been touched by her beautiful smile and her warm heart. Nastassia has accomplished much this year. She has worked at Uno’s Pizzeria. She has made numerous friends and also has lent a helping hand to others. (Suzanne Mulvaney, teacher)
Randel Lewis-Sumpter – Randel is one of the most charming, likeable, funny, kind and helpful students I have ever taught. And Randel also has a superpower. He can hear anything and everything that is said within the entire building and zeros in and comments on staff conversations with unerring accuracy. … Academically, Randel has blossomed this year, always asking questions and diligently learning new information. A constant refrain from him is, “What’s that mean?” When I ask for a volunteer for any job, Randel’s hand always shoots up first. ... Wednesdays are special days for Randel as that is the day he goes to work at Old Navy. (Lisa Lindblom, teacher)
Magali Rodriguez – As the year progressed, Maggie began to blossom socially and intellectually. Maggie came in on her work day excited about work and couldn’t stop talking about it. ... She has many jobs, but two of her professional ones are at a local deli and Old Navy. ... She has also participated in doing maintenance with her peers. … She enjoys her jobs very much and is very diligent. … It amazes me how much she has grasped in a school year, from learning in the classroom to learning in the community and to building relationships with all of us here. (Adriane Smith, teacher aide)
Jilali Shareef – Jilali is one of the most polite, courteous and respectful students I know. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is always, of course, well dressed. ... Jilali has many friends here at St. Matt’s and is always available to lend a helping hand to both students and staff. Jilali enjoys all of his classes, especially math, where he never gives up on finding a solution. ... Jilali works at many of our community-based sites, including Old Navy, Power Authority and Visiting Nurses. The staff at these sites commends Jilali for his incredible work ethic and commitment. (Nancy Henagan, teacher aide)
Ayotunde Steven Tonade – Steven came to St. Matt’s five years ago. Through the years, Steven acquired many skills that have helped him to mature into the fine young man he is today. He is agreeable and happy to do what is asked of him. He’s very helpful in the classroom. … Once Steven learns his routine, he does it independently and well. … Steven’s preferred subjects are office skills, math and cooking, but his favorite is music. … Steven had the opportunity to be a part of the work experience here in St. Matt’s. He went to Uno’s Pizzeria with Miss Heidi two nights a week. (Izabela Pruden, teacher aide)
Charles Zoref – Charlie’s favorite subjects in school are math and English language arts. … This year he participated in our vocational program and he got to work in Old Navy, where he works very hard … and has learned great skills. ... Charles is a man of few words, but the words he does say are crystal clear because he works so hard to pronounce everything correctly. … He loves going out to the community to eat and shop, and his favorite restaurant is P.F. Changs. He’s very artistic. He loves to draw, and he’s just always a pleasure, cooperative and just a joy to work with. (Leslie Wrobel, teacher)