BROOKSVILLE — The special-needs students at Central High School blend into the crowd during the school year, working on their lessons and preparing for graduation just like their more able-bodied peers.
But the graduation day ceremonies — filled with big, noisy crowds and long speeches — can be too demanding for some of the students.
This year, the school decided to hold a special ceremony for the seven special students. The event Monday morning included a reception with cake and punch after the students received their diplomas.
The exceptional student education graduates were invited to be a part of the special event as well as Central's full graduation ceremony on June 3.
Stacy Jarrell, who works the Central High front desk, and English teacher Samantha Keister are senior class sponsors. They wanted a way to have the special needs students experience the graduation excitement.
"I just wanted to do something for those students' families, so they could enjoy something special that honors their child," Jarrell said.
Lisa Wheeler's daughter, Tiffany Shinn, 21, participated in the special graduation. Tiffany is intellectually delayed and has cerebral palsy, and Wheeler said her daughter would benefit from the quieter and shorter ceremony.
"I think it's wonderful," Wheeler said.
Wheeler is also very happy that Tiffany had exceptional student education teacher Kirsten Mihok during her years at Central.
"Mrs. Mihok is one of the most wonderful teachers I've ever met and Tiffany's been in school a long time," she said.
Paula Anderson is grateful for the new event because it helps her daughter, Kristine Rowan, 18, savor the commencement experience.
"We love it," she said. "She wouldn't have made it through the long one."
Kristine, who is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy type II and cerebral palsy, would have had trouble waiting for all the graduates in the full-school ceremony to walk across the stage for their diplomas.
"She gets a little irritated and gets scared if there's a big crowd. And she doesn't like loud noises, either," Anderson said.