A New Path

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IRONTON — Like those before them and those to follow, the three members of the 2009 graduating class of Open Door School left their impression on classmates and friends alike — an impression principal Kendra Kelley was eager to point out.

“Yet one thing that left the biggest impression in your path has been your friends. They have been there for you no matter what and they come in many shapes, sizes and ages. Each of you will be deeply missed by all,” Kelley said to the graduates along with more than 60 friends and family in attendance Tuesday.

The three graduates – Robert Earl Cole, Randal Eugene Mills and Adrianne Nicole Tefft — donned their purple graduation caps and gowns while glowing under the admiration of friends, family and the constant flashing of cameras.

Cole, Mills and Tefft were handed their graduation certificates by Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Board President Patrick Sheridan and Superintendent Paul Mollett.

It was a time for tears as well and many in attendance welled up during a large-screen video montage of each of the graduates.

The slideshow profiled in photos the three from infancy to current with music selections in the background including “Time of Your Life” by Green Day.

Many of the photos used in the video were from personal family collections, a fact Kelley wove into her speech.

“I am proud to be a part of their lives and the lives of their family. These three students have accomplished so much at this point of their lives and tonight we are here to celebrate those accomplishments,” Kelley said.

Cole is from the Dawson-Bryant School District; Mills from the Symmes Valley School District and Tefft is from the Fairland School District.

For Mollett, who attended his 26th Open Door graduation on Tuesday, the pride that comes with watching every graduating class hits home.

“I really am touched, this is something special,” Mollett said. “I look at the accomplishments of the graduating class and am very proud of them.”

And it is those accomplishments that the MR/DD staff has been grooming Cole, Mills and Tefft for long before tassels had been turned.

Unlike other schools, not all Open Door students graduate at the same time. Students are individually judged as to how well they have reached assigned goals and tasks.

Although some graduate at age 22, when they must leave the school, many are ready to move on much earlier. Many Open Door graduates find work with sponsoring businesses or through the agency’s adult training centers.

Open Door School is certified by the Ohio Department of Education and accredited by the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The school serves more than 60 students with multiple handicaps ages six to 21 from all Lawrence County areas.