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MSSD Celebrates 45th Commencement

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The Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) Class of 2016 graduation speakers reflected on how the MSSD experience changed their lives and gave them a second family to treasure.

On June 10, MSSD celebrated its 45th commencement exercises. Forty-two students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas in Gallaudet University's Elstad Auditorium.  

Valedictorian Elisha Spinosi

Valedictorian Elisha Spinosi comes from a family with close ties to MSSD. Both his parents work on campus, his father is an alumnus, and his younger brother is a student there. In his speech, Spinosi talked about how he made a "second and very real home at MSSD where we came from different states, different communities ... sometimes from other countries, to form one humongous family." An avid fan of the Harry Potter books, he quoted Professor Albus Dumbledore, saying, "'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' Those of us who've grown up at MSSD know that treasure is family."  

Salutatorian Sydney Padgett

Salutatorian Sydney Padgett transferred to MSSD for her junior year. The first time she learned about Deaf culture was at the Gallaudet University Academic Bowl; that was where she found out about MSSD and decided to apply. Reflecting on this decision which made such a positive impact on her life, she shared with her fellow graduates: "If there is one thing I have learned in high school, it is that there will be times when a situation pops up and a choice will have to be made. That choice should be made for yourself, not other people .... This is my life. My story. My book. I will be the one to write it. I will be the one to edit it."  

Maria Solvey Graduation Speaker

MSSD alumna Maria Solovey ('07) gave this year's commencement speech. A native of the Ukraine, she struggled to learn both English and American Sign Language after her family moved to the United States. When she came to MSSD, she discovered that she was "in the right place to become who I am. I set many goals. I can proudly say I graduated as valedictorian and ... was involved in many sports, dancing, cooking, acting, and directing." Since graduation, Solovey has used her entrepreneurial skills to set up an online clothing and accessory design company. She plans to hire deaf employees from the U.S. and the Ukraine and set up a deaf-friendly workplace.  

Graduate Thanks Family

At the conclusion of the commencement program, the students walked onstage to receive their coveted diplomas, pausing to move their tassels to the "graduate" side of their caps and to give thanks to their student family, teachers, and staff and to their home families and friends who gave them the courage to reach this point in their life's journey.   Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

Recipients of Scholarship Awards

Laura Snyder-Gardner and Mary Ann Gardner Memorial Scholarship: Audrey Caseiro and Travis Waddell

Peter B. Hobbs Memorial Scholarship Award: Victoria Tingler

Stephanie Joyner Scholarship Award: Juwann Blackwell

Alan R. Williams Memorial Scholarship: Darissa Bashaw and Victoria Tingler     

Gallaudet University Scholarships:  

  • Tiffany Anderson
  • Darissa Bashaw
  • Juwan Blackwell
  • Audrey Caseiro
  • Nicole Ceron
  • Gabriel DeOliveira
  • Isabelle Diaz
  • Kaya Jensen
  • Niko Lutes-Stein
  • Arielle McCarthy
  • Sydney Padgett
  • Emily Perea
  • Sabrina Rippey
  • Alexandria Rutowski
  • Dylan Saylor
  • Jordin Sellen
  • Gabriella Simons
  • Sunshine Souhrada
  • Elisha Spinosi
  • Wolfgang Staley
  • Rahsheita Sweeney
  • Victoria Tingler
  • Isabelle Troup
  • Travis Waddell
  • Darren Wells
  • Jorge Wilson
  • Oscar Zayas    

Class of 2016:  

  • Tiffany Anderson
  • Darissa Bashaw*
  • Kurt Bernabei*
  • Juwan Blackwell
  • Robert Britton
  • Diamante Brooks
  • Audrey Caseiro*
  • Nicole Cerón
  • Perla Cerritos
  • Michael Clay
  • Khyaire Corley
  • Gabriel DeOliveira
  • Isabelle Diaz*
  • Megan Fichtner
  • Isaiah Flim
  • Zachrey Gill
  • Malek Herring
  • Antonio Jackson
  • Kaya Jensen
  • Arianne Levenson*
  • Niko Lutes-Stein*
  • Samuel Marchese-Ragona
  • Arielle McCarthy
  • Karla Ortiz
  • Sydney Padgett*
  • Emily Perea
  • Daniel Ramos Rodriguez
  • Sabrina Rippey*
  • Alexandria Rutowski*
  • Dylan Saylor*
  • Jordin Sellen*
  • Gabriella Simons
  • Sunshine Souhrada
  • Elisha Spinosi*
  • Wolfgang Staley*
  • Rahsheita Sweeney
  • Victoria Tingler*
  • Isabelle Troup*
  • Travis Waddell*
  • Darren Wells
  • Jorge Wilson
  • Oscar Zayas Colón  

*Merit diploma