Each year at the Academy360 Upper School Graduation and Moving Up Ceremony, one student is chosen to give a farewell speech.  Young Adult Program student Luisa Sullivan, who will be leaving Academy360 Upper School for Independence360, was this year’s speaker.  Here is the touching speech that she wrote and delivered.

Good Morning staff, students, families, fellow graduates, and guests.

My name is Luisa Sullivan. I was born with a genetic condition called Trisomy X and Autism. I always had a lot of trouble with certain things; like being clumsy, learning, trying to fit in and making friends. I was in special education in my school district and never felt like I belonged. I did not join any clubs and used to come home crying a lot. In middle school, I started to get bullied and it made me feel very sad and hurt. This was a very rough time for me. I changed schools four times during high school, and I was even homeschooled for a short time. I lost hope in myself.

Graduate standing with school principal
Luisa with A360 Upper School Principal, Lynn Muir

In 10th grade, I came to tour what was then TCI for the first time. I met Mrs. Muir, Mrs. Cue, and Mrs. Keehn. As soon as I began to walk around the school I met other students and staff and felt welcomed. I knew this was the right school for me. I still remember that day and everyone was so warm and inviting. It was a little tough at first and I struggled at times, but I finally found a place that accepted me for who I am. I was able to be me, and that made me feel very happy.

I started to make friends and eventually started hanging out with them outside of school. I was invited to parties and would go to the movies with Joe and pumpkin picking with Steph. I know the friendships I have made here will continue as we go on to the next chapter of our lives.

I was inspired by my counselor, Mrs. McMahon and my behaviorist, Mrs. Keehn, who taught me how to express my feelings and find ways to calm myself down. At Academy360, I felt confident to be part of a team and participate in different activities. Coach Waters gave me the courage to join the basketball team, which I played on for three years. Since I enjoyed cooking, Chef Matthews encouraged me to participate in the culinary after-school program, where I learned to make my favorite food, mac and cheese. I also acted in two school plays and was part of the stage crew for The Lion King. I never thought I would feel comfortable participating in a Respite and sleeping at the school, but Mrs. Hesse convinced to try it. I ended up loving Respite! Thank you, Mrs. Hesse, for always encouraging me. Thank you to all the wonderful teachers and staff; Mrs. Muir and Mrs. Cue, for making the school a fun and safe place for all the students.

Two graduates with their moms
Luisa at graduation with family and friends.

I will be going to Independence360 in July, where I know I will continue to grow and thrive. I read something that musician Stuart Duncan once said, “Autism is a spectrum. Each and every person has their own shade and is needed to complete the rainbow. You are unique. You are important.” At Academy360 we are all part of this rainbow. I know with the help of all of our families, the wonderful staff, and the friends we have made, we can all achieve our hopes and dreams.