Congratulations to Next Steps at Vanderbilt Graduating Class of 2015

Congratulations to Next Steps at Vanderbilt Graduating Class of 2015

Onward and Upward: Congratulations to Next Steps at Vanderbilt Graduates

Next Steps at Vanderbilt graduated its fifth class of students on April 29, 2015, in a ceremony held in the Wyatt Center on Vanderbilt’s Peabody campus. The five graduates included Caitlin Bernstein, Sean Druffel, Anna Graeflin, Hardin Manhein, and Nicholas Pinter.

The ceremony began with a joyful welcome to families, Ambassadores, Next Steps alumni, and program supporters from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center director Elisabeth Dykens. Dykens marveled at the great accomplishments of the graduating students and thanked all of those in attendance whose support of the program has enabled it to flourish.

Graduating Ambassadore Chelsea Derer offered remarks, reflecting on fond memories and experiences she shared with the graduating students, thanking them for enhancing her time at Vanderbilt, and reminding them to continue to embrace their abilities and potential when embarking upon future endeavors.

Graduating Next Steps student Anna Graeflin also shared parting remarks with the large crowd of elated family, friends, and supporters.

“Though Next Steps is a program with a simple enough goal in mind, the impact it has had on my life and, no doubt, the lives of my comrades, has been life changing,” said Graeflin. “Before Next Steps, I had no idea what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. Even now I still have varying degrees of uncertainty, but the difference now is that I am better equipped to face the future and overcome any obstacles that come my way.”

David Weintraub, Professor of Astronomy, delivered the farewell remarks. He noted the impact Next Steps has had in his classroom and on the Vanderbilt campus. He also reminded students to take pride in how well they have navigated their own individual paths to graduation.

“Two years ago, each of you began a journey,” said Weintraub. “You each took your first next step at Vanderbilt. You didn’t know where your personal journey would lead, but just as Odysseus did, when he set out on his journey home to Ithaca, you hoped --- you knew --- that your journey at college would be full of adventures, discovery, excitement, and also dense with dark, foreboding, scary, unknown, mysterious barriers and burdens . Yet here you are, ready to graduate. Obviously, you took on these difficult problems. You dared to do so. And you stared them down and you wrestled them and you defeated them. If you hadn’t taken that first next step, you wouldn’t have had to struggle with the hard problems of college. You could have taken the easy path by never setting foot on Vanderbilt’s campus. You could have avoided many of life’s challenges. But you didn’t do that. You chose the more difficult path. You chose the more rewarding path. Congratulations.”

The ceremony concluded with each of the students receiving certificates and being recognized for their outstanding accomplishments during their two years at Vanderbilt. A reception followed with lots of food, hugs, and best wishes.

Congratulations, Next Steps at Vanderbilt Class of 2015!

Next Steps at Vanderbilt is a 2-year nonresidential certification program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing individualized Programs of Study in the areas of education, social skills, and vocational training. Its program mission is to provide transformational learning experiences, within an inclusive educational setting.

For more information, visit the Next Steps at Vanderbilt website or call (615) 343-0822.

Photos by Susan Urmy / Vanderbilt University

Last Updated: 5/5/2015 1:53:38 PM

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