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‘You will never be forgotten’

Brandy Blankenship, right, grabs a hold of her niece Kaitlyn Malone, left, following commencement exercises Thursday evening at Open Door School. Brandy was one of three graduates from the Open Door School.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” played Thursday evening, three purple-robed students, mortar boards neatly in place, made their way down the aisle of the Open Door School gym and took their seats in front of the assembly.

This was their night.

Brandy Michelle Blankenship, Steven Allen Martin and Jonathan Franklin Christian Simpson are this year’s Class of 2012.

“Tonight we say goodbye to three of our very dear students and friends,” Principal Kendra Kelley said. “All three of you touched our lives in such a way you will never be forgotten.”

After a slideshow of photographs that chronicled their transformation from children into young adults, Blankenship, Martin and Christian took turns thanking their loved ones and the school staff for the years of love and support.

Blankenship delivered her address in sign language as an aide read her speech. Martin gave two friends, Orval Munyan III and Justin Willis, a photograph and got hugs in return. Simpson promised, “I will miss everyone at the Open Door School and I will be back to visit.”

Blankenship said she will go home and get some rest for now. Martin wants to work for Tri-State Industries. Simpson wants to “find a job out in the community, working at Foodfair or Kroger in Proctorville,” he said.

But for one last night, they were Open Door success stories basking in the glow of a job well done.