Graduation season might be six months away, but Solano County Office of Education honored students in its Adult Transition Program who have now graduated and are ready to conquer the world.
In true 2020 fashion, the students were recognized Monday through a virtual ceremony and then a car parade that brought their certificates to them.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for the young people who have accomplished this huge milestone,” Lisette Estrella-Henderson, Solano County superintendent of Schools, said. “We did not want to let COVID get in the way of recognizing their accomplishments.”
The Adult Transition Program serves students ages 18 to 22 with intellectual disabilities or autism who have received a certificate of completion from high school and have needs for support as they begin their transition to adulthood.
Siobhan Dill, SCOE’s executive director of specialized services, said some students in the program have been with SCOE since they were infants, while others have been served by districts such as Vacaville, Fairfield-Suisun, Travis, Dixon and Benicia and then joined the program after graduating high school.
Among the experiences of the program include vocational training, travel or mobility training, recreational activity involvement, social skills development, self-care, self-advocacy, technology and support for attending community college or a higher education program.
“The adult program is teaching them adult life skills to prepare them for the future of employment and independent living,” Dill said.
The students honored Monday had turned 22 in the fall and received certificates of completion.
Typically, SCOE hosts graduation ceremonies in the spring and fall for its adult students. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was transitioned to a virtual format, which Dill said actually increased its attendance from past years, with 127 people taking part.
“More people have been able to Zoom in from the location that they’re at,” she said. “It doesn’t require traveling to an in-person location.”
The ceremony had a surprise guest appearance from Joey Travolta, the founder of Inclusion Films, which teaches filmmaking to individuals with disabilities. Travolta hosted a film camp at SCOE’s Golden Hills Educational Center in the summer of 2019 where students worked on short film projects, culminating in a red carpet premiere at Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre in November of that year.
Dill said one of the graduates is hoping to become a video designer and attended the camp.
“(It’s) really an example of how the Inclusion Films camp experience developed the student’s belief in himself that he has the potential to be part of the film industry,” she said.
The festivities did not stop with the ceremony, as Estrella-Henderson got on a decorated bus with other staff which led educators in other vehicles to drive by the graduates’ homes to deliver them their certificates and congratulate them on their accomplishments.
“We wanted to make sure the graduates still felt the fanfare and the excitement,” Dill said.
The motorcade made eight stops in Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville, dangled banners of support outside their windows and honked as students stepped out of their homes.
“We’re bringing a school bus to their front lawns,” Estrella-Henderson said.
Additionally, students also received a lawn sign and a bag of goodies, including a decorative cookie, tassel and program of the virtual ceremony.
Estrella-Henderson said the event was an exciting moment in the graduates’ lives.
“It’s critically important for us to recognize that, while they may have faced many challenges throughout their lives, they have many gifts and talents to offer our community,” she said. “We are thrilled to be a part of their journey. It really is an honor and a priviliege, and we’re just so excited to see them take the next step in their lives.”
The students honored were Timothy Tran and Philip Veloso of Fairfield; Andrew Murphey, Sydney Ruta and Taylor Smith of Suisun City; and Dylan Gramstad, Brian Rumbaoa and Angelo Solis.