Ahern: Five unique graduates, P.L.A.I.D. Class of 2012
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalistemail@example.com June 14, 2012 3:08PM
The five eighth-grade graduates from P.L.A.I.D. Academy are (back row, from left) Jackson Miller, April Morris, Alec Filosa and (front row) Morgan Farley and Susan Cook. | Supplied Photo
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:08AM
When the five eighth-grade graduates from P.L.A.I.D. Academy in the Beverly community of Chicago finish high school in four years, they will discover just how unique their grade school graduation was.
With only five graduates, it was possible to have a personalized slide show that focused on each graduate, and even included photos from their early baby years. In addition, each student was individually recognized and honored.
Perhaps the most telling point of just how personalized the graduation was came when nearly every teacher became overwhelmed with emotion, and struggled to get through their speeches because tears kept getting in the way.
Clearly, P.L.A.I.D (Positive Learning in an Atmosphere of Individual Development) Academy’s class of 2012 was small, but nonetheless very special, to the staff of the school.
Graduates Susan Cook, Morgan Farley, Alec Filosa, Jackson Miller, and April Morris were lauded during the nearly two hour ceremony by the teachers who gave them their awards.
Teacher’s aide Diane Walker, speaking of Cook, spoke in glowing terms of her student when she gave Cook an award for achievement.
“I expected the best from Susan and I got it,” Walker said. “She was an honor roll student through 16 report cards and I could partner Susan up with anyone.”
Cook, who will attend Chicago Christian Academy in the fall, said she felt support all through her years of education at P.L.A.I.D. She referred to P.L.A.I.D as family.
“They stuck with me through everything and left footprints in my heart along the way, and I thank them for that,” Cook said.
Teacher Peggy Cook spoke of Farley and gave the graduate a writing award.
“These students have been writing their life story since the day they were born,” Cook said. “I have read your story. Don’t be afraid to show the world who you are. Write a best seller.”
Farley, who will attend Hyde Park Academy in the fall, likened her education to a child who starts out by crawling and through experience, learns how to walk.
“The decisions I made were not always bad, and they were not always good either. The bad decisions taught me not to do them again, and the good decisions taught me to do them again,” Farley said. “Transitioning from 30 students to hundreds will be a hard task but I will try like I always do.”
Teacher Tom Clemens awarded gave Filosa a science award, and teased the student when he described how the students spent lunch times watching the “Star Wars” series of movies more than once.
“I started to think Darth Vader was my father,” Clemens joked. “You have an insatiable curiosity for science and you are going to infinity and beyond,” Clemens said of Filosa.
Filosa, who will attend Marist High School in the fall, said he was a little scared about high school, but he thought he would still love it. He added that he will be returning to P.L.A.I.D from time to time.
“I loved P.L.A.I.D so much but now it is time to say goodbye. Do not think I will not be coming back to visit, because I will every time I have a day off,” Filosa said.
Principal Jean Altman gave Miller the fine arts award and referred to their shared love of composer George Gershwin.
“I don’t think I’ve heard ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ without thinking of you,” Altman said, referring to Gershwin’s famous melody. “I love hearing your insights and you have always been clear and concise about what you don’t like, and passionate about what you do like.”
Miller, who plans on attending Chicago Christian Academy in the fall, said he felt his years at P.L.A.I.D. gave him a new definition of the words friendship, companionship and family. He thanked all his teachers, and gave special thanks to his fellow graduates.
“You all made it possible for me to succeed and prosper academically, and socially, and have all around helped me to become a better person, and for that I thank you. To Alec, Susie, Morgan and April — thank you. Thank you for being someone to talk to, someone to laugh with, someone to count on, and for giving me the sure feeling that I will always have you,” Miller said.
Financial director Susan Weg gave Morris the school’s leadership award, and borrowed words from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” when she referred to Morris and asked: “How can you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
“You have helped every person in this school and have been a role model for all the students,” Weg said. “The word ‘April’ means open, and that is a perfect name for a wonderful girl.”
Morris, who will attend Gary Comer College Prep in the fall, said she arrived at P.L.A.I.D Academy three years ago needing to “fix a lot of things” in her life.
“”When I first started here, my grades needed improvement, but that all changed when I met Mrs. Cook. I would not call her annoying but she surely would not let you forget anything. I did not care because I knew she was just trying to help me, and that is why Mrs. Cook is one of the many people I would like to thank,” Morris said.
Summing up the graduation, Altman told the children they all owned the gifts of recognition they received.
“You each have been a blessing to P.L.A.I.D,” Altman said. “It has been an honor to have taught you. We were welcomed as part of your families and you are an intricate part of our P.L.A.I.D family. We are anxious to hear of your future successes. You are in our hearts and have been woven into our P.L.A.I.D fabric.”
P.L.A.I.D. Academy is located at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. The school opened in 1994, and now 35 students from kindergarten through eighth grade attend the school. For more information about P.L.A.I.D. visit, www.plaidacademy.org.