by Jesse A. Saperstein

During the second weekend in May, the College Experience held its annual graduation barbecue, celebrating the class of 2017! The weather was beautiful, and it was a chance to finally say goodbye to any remnants of winter time.  Most important, this was a chance to congratulate the seniors for making it through two consecutive years of the College Experience.  Some will be moving on to the Transitions Program, which is an option for those who wish to continue their journey towards independence with limited staff assistance. Other seniors will be moving onto new experiences at the end of the summer. Regardless of what the next chapter may be for our graduating seniors, we have faith they will continue to maintain their momentum and hone the skills that have been built at the College Experience.  All of the students received copies of the yearbook while the seniors collected portraits of themselves posing in a caps and gowns.  The students eagerly passed around the yearbooks for their friends and staff to sign.  Everybody enjoyed some amazing food such as sandwiches, shrimp, salads, and a gigantic cake for the seniors.

Even though the seniors were surely the men and women of the hour, the graduation celebration was also a chance to congratulate the freshmen students for pushing through such dramatic changes.  The freshmen started out the school year in a new community and were expected to coexist with strangers they had never met.  The staff members are always present to make the transition as smooth as possible, although no amount of staff help can possibly take away the stress from such mammoth changes.  As a staff member who also lives with a disability that makes transitions unbearable, I was impressed by how rapidly the students were able to adjust to life as college students and work out occasional conflicts among their peers.  We look forward to welcoming the current freshmen into their senior year where they will begin internships in businesses and organizations that appeal to their individual passions or interests.

One of the unique aspects of the College Experience is that we try to keep the party going for as long as possible even after the students have officially graduated.  Following the spring semester, the students returned home for a well-deserved, weeklong vacation with their families.  Now the students are back, and have begun their Summer I curriculum which allows them the chance to enjoy elective classes such as Fashion Art and Blogging, on top of invaluable core curriculum, like Human Sexuality and Recreational Planning .The final sequence of the summer session will be Summer II that will allow students to plan trips under the guidance of staff while continuing to practice skills related to Community Navigation and Finance.