Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Graduates with disabilities shine in news coverage

Darius Weems, top picture, focus of the documentary "Darius goes West,"
receives his diploma from Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga.
Ehrin McHenry, center, who has cerebral palsy, graduates from
St. Joseph's College in New York. Mimi Donaldson, bottom picture,
who has Down syndrome, with her mother and aunt at her
at Parkville High School graduation in Maryland.

It's that time of year and around the country graduates are leaving high school or college behind with diplomas in hand. Now that school accessibility is somewhat improved, it's nice to see the media attention being given to graduates with disabilities. Some of the stories may be a bit syrupy but most also mention some of strides being made to accommodate students with disabilities in modern high schools and universities.

Here's a roundup of a few stories about America's graduates with disabilities:

  • Darius Weems, the star of the documentary "Darius Goes West," has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and says in the Athens Banner Herald that he's glad to be alive and achieve something his brother, who also had Duchenne's, wasn't able to live to do. In March 2000, Mario Robinson died from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy months before graduating from Clarke Central. "I think he'd be proud," Darius said, reflecting on how he thought his brother would feel seeing him graduate. "I think he'd thank God I made it." The "Darius Goes West" team has also created a curriculum guide called Know About It! to bring the film into classrooms.

  • Ehrin McHenry graduated summa cum laude from St. Joseph's College, but described the extra work it took to coordinate classtimes so her mother could drive her to campus for all her classes, according to Newsday. McHenry, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, said, "Every time I would register for classes, my mom would do it with me to make sure the times were good." She now has a degree in psychology and plans to attend graduate school in the fall at Adelphi University with the goal of becoming a school psychologist.

  • Margoshia "Mimi" Donaldson, 19, who has Down syndrome, succeeded in inclusive classes at Parkville High School outside of Baltimore and is now a 2008 graduate planning to study at Towson University, The Baltimore Sun reports. "We have never treated her as if she had Down syndrome," said her mother, Margo Haynesworth. "She was always treated like any other child."

  • Joshua M. Neace, who has cerebral palsy, was Silver Grove High School's valedictorian, and the first Northern Kentucky student ever to be selected a national Horatio Alger Scholar, according to the Community Press & Recorder. The cerebral palsy affects Neace's speech and processing skills and means it takes him longer to write notes or take tests.
    "I don't see myself as really any different than other people, except what I have," Neace said, referring to the cerebral palsy. He will attend Cumberland College in Kentucky and plans to become a doctor of pediatrics so he can work with people in a conflict zone.