On May 26, Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 held its Special Education Graduation Ceremony at Colonial Academy in Wind Gap. The Intermediate Unit serves 13 school districts in Northampton and Monroe counties and operates three of its own schools.
Thirty-two students participated in the graduation ceremony, which began with welcoming remarks by Director of Special Education Jacqueline Bartek.
IU-20 Executive Director Christopher Wolfel shared some words of wisdom for the graduating class, including a Paul Molitor quote: “Complaining is like vomiting. You might feel better after you get it out, but you make everyone around you sick.”
Wolfel told graduates to “enjoy the ride” and spoke of his own childhood, which included running the halls of the Intermediate Unit office, where his mother worked as a secretary.
Lauren Emilia Dietrick, a member of the class of 2022 who lives in the Wilson Area School District and attended the IU-20 Life Skills Support program at the Career Institute of Technology in Easton, was the class speaker.
She reminded her fellow graduates that “it is OK to ask for help.”
“I have done things that are hard for me (to do),” Dietrick said, “(and) my teachers and friends have helped me a lot.”
In addition to employment at St. Luke’s, Dietrick recently won a gold medal in equestrian competition at the recent Special Olympics Summer Games in State College.
Following her speech, teachers were called to the podium and their graduates received their certificates and diplomas. Each school district was represented by their Local Education Agent, or LEA.
After the students had all received their diplomas, a slide show featuring photos of the graduates was presented on a large screen. Following the graduation, a small reception was held in celebration of the occasion.
The following graduates live and/or attended school in the Saucon Valley or Bethlehem areas. (Students’ home school districts are noted in parentheses.)
Isaiah Fernandez (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Liberty High School. His teacher, Daniel Rowley, said “Isaiah always cares about his friends. He engages his friends every day and asks, ‘Where are they?’ When one of his friends was absent, he wanted to know if they were OK. He has a strong love for animals and knows many facts about all kinds of animals. He also loves to draw cartoon characters. His future plans are to go to an adult day program to obtain a job.”
Mason Jackus (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. His teacher, Jeffrey Kovacs, said “Mason loves to do cooking activities in our classroom and always asks for ‘cooking’ on a weekly basis. Mason is a very friendly and happy student. He is hard-working and always will try his best.”
Kara Konecke (Easton Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. Her teacher, Jeffrey Kovacs, said “Kara loves to be on the move. She likes to live life fast and likes to walk the halls and grounds of the school. Kara is very friendly and humorous. She is always laughing at jokes in class and with the help from her one-on-one. She likes stopping and saying hello to her friends with her communication device.”
Evan Tyler Lee (Easton Area School District) attended the IU-20 Multiple Disabilities Support program at Liberty High School. His teacher was Michelle Davis, who said: “Evan is definitely not a morning person and unfortunately high school begins at 7:30! Throughout the years in my classroom I have gotten to know Evan and his family, and I can tell you that he is a very special young man with an incredible support system. He enjoys participating in music, reading activities and outings in the community.”
Daniel Morales (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. His teacher, Jeffrey Kovacs, said, “Daniel is a great worker. One example would be that a teacher did not know how to work the freight elevator and as Danny was passing, he showed the teacher what to do. Daniel has a great memory and will often memorize anything that is taught to him.”
Nathan Robert Musselman (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Life Skills Support program at Colonial Academy. His teacher was Ann Janders, who said, “Nathan is the type of student who loves to help in the classroom. He is academically successful and loves reciting the states every week. Speaking of love, if you know Nathan, you know he loves Disney! Nathan has a great sense of humor and enjoys making people laugh. But he is also caring and compassionate, especially if he thinks he upset you. Over the last two years, we have seen a lot of growth and maturity in Nathan. Nathan has come a long way and we are so grateful to have had this journey with him.”
George Papageorgiou (Nazareth Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. His teacher, Jeffrey Kovacs, said, “George is always excited to come to school. George always jogs off the bus smiling and excited into the classroom waving his hands in the air like he is raising the roof. George is a very hard worker especially with tasks that he knows.”
Janlee Rodriguez-Rivera (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support program at Colonial Academy. Her teacher was Angela Liberto, who said, “Janlee loved going to the farm and to Special Olympics. She would always tell us when someone was missing in the classroom and was the first person to help other students. She always reminded us of special events and dates, especially her birthday. Janlee loved art class and completed her art projects to perfection.”
Thomas Shafer (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Life Skills Support program at Colonial Academy. His teacher was Ann Janders, who said, “Thomas, or as everyone refers to him, TJ…has always been such a positive student while being in my class. Unfortunately, he has only been online, but always was willing to participate and work with his fellow students. TJ always loved to hear a good joke and would gladly share his contagious laugh with us! I will never forget TJ’s stick-on tattoos, he never had the same one twice, and his knowledge of all the latest music and dance moves. He really loves Maroon 5 and Marshmallow. He will be missed by so many at the Academy.”
Nathaniel Stanley (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Liberty High School. His teacher was Daniel Rowley, who said, “Nathaniel loves to dance. Music appreciation is his favorite class. Nathaniel’s strengths are working hands-on, such as (by) recycling boxes and cleaning tables in the cafeteria.”
Sabrina Claire Swiss (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. Her teacher, Jeffrey Kovacs, said, “Sabrina loves exploring new things. One example would be when we carved a pumpkin as a class and Sabrina loved it. Sabrina is a very happy student who loves music and singing. She always brightens everyone’s day with her smile.”
Alex Svolos (Saucon Valley School District) attended the Life Skills Support program at Colonial Academy. His teacher was Ann Janders, who said, “Alex has been a staple here at the Academy, and will surely be missed. Alex always knew how to lighten up a room with his crisp tie and patriotic mask. He will always be remembered for his love of the American Flag, and his energetic way of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, even if it was first thing in the morning! I have so many fond memories of Alex. I definitely will always remember his remarkable knowledge about grandfather clocks or brands of landline phones. I am very proud of Alex, and all of the work that he has accomplished while at the Colonial Academy.”
Cassandra Torres (Bethlehem Area School District) attended the Autistic Support classroom at Freedom High School. Her teacher was Jeffrey Kovacs, who said, “Cassie is the most outgoing student that I have ever had. She will say ‘hello’ to everyone that she sees in the halls, whether or not she knows them… Cassie always tries her best and is very hard-working. She cares about her friends and is always asking about them when they are absent.”
Andrew David Weintraub (Saucon Valley School District) attended the IU-20 Life Skills Support program at the Career Institute of Technology. His teacher, Amy Hettel, said, “David loves to sing! His favorite song is ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ from Toy Story. David is always quick with a ‘thumbs up’ and huge smile. David is hard-working, whether in the classroom or at his vocational training position.” David has a paying job at his family’s restaurant, Carl’s Corner, in Nazareth.