June 21, 2017

RSD Class of 2017 Graduates 06/21/17
Seven Seniors Ready for College and the World of Work

Rochester, NY – Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) held its’ Class of 2017 Commencement Ceremony, Thursday, June 21, 2017, in the Westervelt Hall auditorium. The ceremony was led by Superintendent and CEO Mr. Antony A. L. McLetchie. Mr. Gerard Walter represented the RSD Board of Directors as Board Secretary.

Teacher Mrs. Pamela McInerney provided piano accompaniment for the musical prelude, and graduates’ processional and recessional. Sophomore Diane Ward led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Senior Ahmed Hassan Mahmoud delivered a passionate Salutatory Address. Sophomore Courtney Gentzke, Freshman Cah’Ryn Moquette and Junior Tre Vaughn performed “The Mindset of Success” as the “Interlude,” a special performance dedicated to the graduates. It was directed by Teaching Assistant Ms. Victoria Nordquist and assistant director, Teaching Assistant Mr. Randy Dunham.

Superintendent McLetchie introduced this years’ commencement speaker Timothy Albert. Mr. Albert is a graduate of RIT/NTID and Gallaudet University. He is President of the National Black Deaf Advocates organization and Dean of Students at Indiana School for the Deaf. Summary of Mr. Albert's address.

Class of 2017 Advisor Mr. S. Chris Bradley presented three graduating seniors with special awards provided by the RSD Board of Directors: Dylan Benjamin, RSD Board of Directors Award for Academic Excellence ($1,000); Hunter Luther, RSD Board of Directors Award for Vocational Excellence ($1,000); and, Ahmed Mahmoud, RSD Board of Directors Leadership Award ($1,000).

Following those awards, School Principal Mrs. Nancy Perry, with Superintendent McLetchie, Mr. Walters and Mr. Albert, then presented diplomas and commencement credentials to each of the seven graduates, who walked across the Westervelt auditorium stage as students for a final time.

Dylan Emory Benjamin provided a rousing Valedictory Address, before Superintendent McLetchie gave his closing remarks to the graduates, their families, school staff and school supporters present. His remarks included a standing ovation for Mrs. Perry, whose retirement concludes 38 years of dedicated services to RSD. Freshman Bella Rose Nassar rounded out the evening with a recital of the RSD Alma Matar.

Meet the Graduates

Maryam A.
The RSD family had the pleasure of getting to know Maryam, a delightful, outgoing, fun-loving young woman. She left Yemen for America four years ago, and she started her education in the Syracuse area. However, she wanted more opportunities. So at age 20, last fall, she came to RSD as a senior. Maryam worked hard and took on all of the challenges that were offered to her. She continued this year to improve her ASL, English and other academic skills while at the same time learning independent living and work skills. She especially loved her science class, never having had the opportunity to delve into science with a Deaf teacher. She loves being with people and her favorite activity was being involved with the track and field team as well as the girls’ basketball team as a manager. She enjoyed the opportunity of traveling with the team to other schools for the Deaf. Also, she was a member of the Junior National Association of the Deaf Chapter here at RSD. At this years’ “Strive. Work. Achieve.” high school awards program, Maryam was the recipient of the Career Development and Occupational Studies Award. Also, she shared in her class will, “I give all of you, students, my motivation to learn. I encourage you to stay learning and not give up.” Maryam has successfully completed the New York State requirements for the Career Development and Occupational Studies Credential. This credential recognizes her preparation and skills for post-school employment. She plans to attend a supported employment program and work towards her goal of being competitively employed. She would like to continue her education as well, perhaps even attending college at some point in the future.

Dylan Emory Benjamin
Dylan entered RSD as a residential student when he was eleven years old. Remembering when he was a new student, he experienced the struggles and challenges in understanding American Sign Language and communicating with his peers who were fluent in the language. Dylan has blossomed into an all-around fine young man.   Dylan enjoyed various academic challenges, successes, and friendships during his high school years at RSD. He has led an active life at RSD participating in a variety of extracurricular activities. His great success is his participation in the Gallaudet University Academic Bowl for RSD for four years. He received a host of several athlete awards including: Deaf Digest All-American Basketball Team, Varsity Basketball Coaches Award and Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association Soccer Tournament Championship. At this years’ high school awards program, Dylan was the recipient of the Dale Lawrence and Rosaline Rockwell Educational Scholarship, and the Joan Dickson Outstanding Role Model Award. Dylan is also the recipient this year of the RSD Board of Directors Award for Academic Excellence. We at RSD are very proud of him, as he received a Regents Diploma and having the highest grades, he is RSD’s class valedictorian.  Dylan will be attending Gallaudet University. Although he has a great passion for statistics and sports, Dylan will determine his major at the university.

Sean Anthony Dinsmore
Prior to coming to RSD, Sean lived in Buffalo, attending a mainstreamed program and the local school for the Deaf. His mom wanted more for him so his family moved to Rochester so he could start his high school career at RSD. If you ask Sean, his favorite activities keep him busy and are physically demanding. Sean made the difficult choice to stay an extra year at RSD. He has never been one to love sitting in a classroom, but this year, he learned the importance of strong academic skills; he focused and pursued his academics in a positive way.  He has great work skills, working in RSD’s Work Experience Program, and last year having the opportunity to work on a large construction project, pursuing his interest of working with the heavy equipment in the construction industry. His most recent extracurricular accomplishment is his astonishing performance in the spring play, “The Necklace Is Missing.” This was not surprising since he was the recipient of the Peter Wollenhaupt Performing Arts Award in 2016. Also, Sean has received awards for being on the Varsity Soccer team.  Sean received a scholarship from the Hearing Loss Association of America. He has successfully completed the NYS requirements for Career Development and Occupational Studies. Sean will be pursuing further training and securing a job after graduation.

Maria Gonzales
Maria has been a student at RSD since she was in ninth grade from a mainstream program. As an individual with a hearing loss, she understood the importance of full access to language; RSD was just the place for that.  She already developed very strong academic skills but she rolled up her sleeves and learned ASL, which will help her access a college education and pursue her dream of becoming an itinerant Teacher of the Deaf. During her time at RSD, she has participated on the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams, and on the Academic Bowl team for two years. It was always important to Maria to bring the high school staff and students together to celebrate and recognize people, being an excellent organizer; she planned good-bye parties for student teachers, which all of the RSD staff really appreciated. This year, Maria was awarded a college scholarship from the Hearing Loss Association of America. She excelled in NYS accredited academic classes and received a Regents Diploma at her graduation. After being accepted into a number of colleges, Maria has decided to go to Gallaudet University. She plans to major in Early Childhood Education and International Studies, and hopes to be able to travel the world and be an advocate to mainstreamed students. 

Hunter Howard Allen Luther
Hunter came to RSD when he was in third grade with the experience of being mainstreamed in his home district. He will tell you that he struggled there, and RSD opened up a whole new world to him. He loved being an RSD student, having full access to language and academics through ASL. Of the many opportunities Hunter has had through high school, he views the opportunity of becoming a highly skilled filmmaker and photographer his biggest accomplishments. While he learned so much on his own, RSD provided many opportunities to broaden his horizon. He received a scholarship to attend the Camp Mark 7 Deaf Film Camp, and he worked with Wayne Betts and Louis Neethling, two world-famous Deaf film producers. He was the students’ director for, “A Day at a Deaf School,” an RSD student film submission for Junior Deaf Rochester Film Festival 2017.   Hunter also submitted his own animated film, “I Will Be Back,” and won a national award for that.  At this years’ high school awards program, Hunter received the Most Improved English Language Arts Award, the Regina and Edward Marsh Scholarship, and the United Faculty Association David Watson Vocational Award. After graduation, Hunter is planning a career as a freelance videographer, and to continue his employment at a local pizzeria with his family and he will be working again at the Deaf Film Camp this summer.  Hunter will be earning a New York State high school diploma and is the recipient this year of the RSD Board of Directors Award for Vocational Excellence.

Ahmed Hassan Mahmoud 
In his PowerPoint presentation in ninth grade, his first year at RSD, Ahmed emphasized that what he wanted more than anything is to receive an education and to become part of this community. He moved to Rochester with his family from Somalia, and through his struggles he gained such a positive attitude for pursuing dreams in the face of adversity. He has grown into a young man with confidence knowing that opportunities are for the taking. Ahmed has worked hard to develop his ASL, English, academic and work skills. He also became an outstanding leader and role-model. He is a Junior National Association of the Deaf Ambassador and was invited by our superintendent to various community events and to Advocacy Day in Albany, to represent RSD students. He loves soccer and has achievements for that and other sports. He participated on the RSD Academic Bowl team for the first time this year. At the high school awards program this year, Ahmed received a scholarship toward college from the Hearing Loss Association of America, the Dale Lawrence and Rosaline Rockwell Educational Scholarship and the Triple “C” Award. Ahmed’s goal came true. At his graduation he was the school salutatorian and he graduated with a Regents Diploma.  Ahmed will be attending Gallaudet University where he plans major in International Studies and of course, play soccer. Ahmed is this years’ recipient of the RSD Board of Directors Award for Leadership Excellence.

Pray Meh
Pray and her family moved to the United States after living for many years in Mayamar.  Opportunity for Pray to learn language and get an education were few. Her world came alive here at RSD when she entered our program at age 18. Her program focused on learning ASL, English, basic academic and work skills. We had the pleasure of watching Pray, who was quite shy, develop into a lovely young woman who enjoys schoolwork, leadership and student life. Pray has many talents; she is a skilled artist, branching from pencil drawings to amazing paintings in her art class. She enjoys cooking, sewing, and crocheting, just to name a few talents. Leaving her legacy, she drew the cover artwork for the “Strive. Work. Achieve.” high school awards program book for this year. Pray participated in RSD’s Work Experience Program and developed skills necessary for the world of work including a variety of on- and off-campus job sites, such as School #25, Irondequoit Town Hall, Seneca Park Zoo, the Rochester Recreation Club of the Deaf, to name a few. She enjoyed participation in RSD’s catering business that sold lunches and baked goods. She has been attending a training program, DePaul WorkGuide, with a definite plan of becoming competitively employed. She will be sorely missed for her delicious meals staff bought for lunch. At the high school awards program this year, Pray was the recipient of the United Faculty Association’s Vocational Excellence, Deaf Women of Rochester, and RSD Alumni Association Awards. At her graduation, Pray was presented with a NYS Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential.




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