Earlier this month, our Chatham school Class of 2024 graduated with proud families, staff and friends cheering them on!

A graduation for ECLC students with special needs is an emotional evening that for most marks the capstone of their educational careers.

Class of 2024

Given this milestone in their academic achievement, each student has an opportunity to address the crowd and acknowledge those who helped in their school journey and express their dreams for the future.

One student perhaps summed up the sentiment of the entire class by saying, “Thank you for getting me through some challenging times and believing in me when I did not.”

There was a particularly poignant moment when Assistant Principal Allison Clemens held back tears while reading a speech written by a student who tragically passed away just weeks before graduation. In the speech, this student had reflected back fondly on her school days: “My favorite part of ECLC is all the dances and seeing my friends and teachers. I will never forget my classmates.”

Her classmates and the entire ECLC family will never forget her and a new award has been established in her name, given to a student who “exemplifies a love for learning and spreads joy through their words and actions.”

Students were honored with a variety of awards, including from the Sunshine Scholarship Committee for students who displayed “school spirit and a willing to give and help others.”

Many of this year’s graduates are starting the PRIDE Adult Day/Evening Program at a temporary location in Chatham’s Stanley Center, while a new permanent PRIDE building in Parsippany is being readied for them. At a recent meeting, the Chatham Borough Council unanimously approved a lease for up to one year.

Road Map to the Future

Graduates start the next chapter in their lives through careful planning with support from ECLC affiliate, Community Personnel Services (CPS). ECLC founded the agency in 1995 to help students find appropriate options for life after graduation and to help alumni successfully enter the workforce. In addition to students, CPS provides services to adults referred by state agencies.

CPS eliminates the anxiety — almost like falling off a cliff — that can occur at schools lacking adult services. CPS arranges tours of adult programs, including the option of entering PRIDE, and exploring both work and educational opportunities.

The CPS staff partner with students and their families to create a roadmap for young adulthood. They help navigate through the complex maze of government agencies to access available aid and services, including transportation. CPS also offers Support Coordination services and is one of the few agencies in the state allowed to approve individual plans without state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) oversight.

Wherever the Class of 2024 goes next, they are always welcomed back for Alumni Reunion Day and to take adult classes at the Diane Gagliardi Evening Enrichment Program! Congratulations to the Class of 2024!