For most people attending a middle school graduation, the key is to endure all the portions of the ceremony that do not strictly pertain to their own child; after all, middle school graduation rates are not exactly dropping the way high school graduation rates did for years, and much of the ceremony can seem rather dull and boring. As a parent in this situation, you typically know that your primary job is to get a picture of your child as they walk across the stage, to enjoy their moment for them, and to then simply make it through the rest of the ceremony. For those who recently attended the eighth grade graduation ceremony for Grand Avenue Middle School in Bellmore, New York, however, the ceremony turned into something far more special, far more engaging, and far more memorable, when Katie McCormick walked across the stage.
Katie lives with cerebral palsy, and as recently as kindergarten was unable to walk. In fact, doctors were uncertain whether Katie ever would be able to walk, and even now she requires assistance from a school aid to carry her books from classroom to classroom. But unlike many young people, who might simply mail it in and stop making the effort to conquer their disability, Katie has refused to ever let it get in her way. She not only graduated eighth grade, but she did so as an honor roll student. And she not only walked across the stage for the ceremony itself, but she also walked across the stage in order to reach the podium and give a speech to her classmates and to everyone else in attendance.
Katie was selected to give a speech at the graduation as an opportunity for the school to honor her determination and her strength, and although she was initially reluctant to take on the challenge of speaking to such a large audience, her family encouraged her and helped her to see the value of stepping on stage and speaking at her graduation: she would be able to show everyone just how much a young person can overcome when they decide to keep battling forward.
If the ceremony was a testament to Katie’s strength and courage, it is also a testament to the maturity and good will of her classmates. While many middle schoolers might be caught making fun of a girl with a condition that sets her apart from others, the students at Grand Avenue Middle School accepted her as one of their own. Katie has made many great friends at Grand Avenue, and has often felt as though she is absolutely no different from all the students around her.
In the fall, Katie will be attending Kennedy High School – also in Bellmore, New York – and will continue working toward her dream of one day becoming a special education teacher. Until then, however, she can take a moment to pause and enjoy how far she has come – and as she does so, those who saw her at her middle school graduation can also remember the inspiration she gave them, and the way in which she showed them that anything is possible.