Coastline’s ABI Graduation 2019

Coastline’s ABI Graduation 2019

November 8, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


♪ Good Morning and Welcome to the 36th Annual ABI Graduation and Awards Ceremony. (applause) I am Celeste Ryan, Instructor/Coordinator
of Special Programs and Services. The staff and faculty of Special Programs
are so honored to have you with us, today. I ordered up no rain. I didn’t say anything about the wind. Sorry. (laughter)
I hope everybody had an opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, water, a homemade cookie
or two, we’re not counting! (laughter) Hopefully you found a basket that you decided you could
not leave without, and most, most important, “connected with” and shared, shared with classmates,
family members, old and new friends, and colleagues. At this time, I would like to introduce you
to Coastline College President, Dr. Loretta Adrian who will acknowledge our distinguished
guests, guests and dignitaries who have come to celebrate with us this morning. (Applause) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Celeste, and good morning to everyone. I see a lot of familiar faces and thank you
again for coming, wind and all! And I know that like you our chancellor, president
of our board, Dr. Prinsky, our Trustee, Mary Hornbuckle, our Vice Chancelor, Andrea Serbaan,
come here every year and I think it is because it is one of the most uplifting events. I was thinking on my way here that this event
really, um, reminds us, anyway, it reminds me that the words, challenge and change are
really very relative, and the event shows us, this event shows us that we have tremendous
human capacity to overcome many obstacles and not only to cope, but to thrive. So thank you for being here. So I would like to introduce some of our special
guests, but you’re all special, but our distinguished guests from our District Leadership, we have
our Chancellor, Dr. John Weispfenning, our Board President Dr. Lorraine Prinsky, Board
of Trustee Member, Trustee Hornbuckle, Mary Hornbuckle, Vice Chancellor, Dr. Andrea Serbaan,
the Director of the Chancellor’s Office, Operations and Governmental
Relations, Dr. Miles Nevin, I think he’s got one of the prime seats back there! And of course our Vice President of Instruction,
Dr. Vince Rodriguez and the Dean of the Newport Beach Campus, Dr. Tom Neal. So thank you for taking the time to honor
our ABI graduates as well as the ABI program. Like many of you in the audience, I always
look forward to this graduation event. The faculty, staff, and students are extremely
dedicated to increasing awareness about traumatic brain injury and are passionate about implementing
a number of ABI Program initiatives and activities. Last March, they identified an ABI Awareness
Day and students with their faculty and staff came out to all of our four including our
student services center to share their stories which were deeply moving and also they, uh,
and inspiring, and they also shared a number of really valuable information about traumatic
brain injury. I was particularly impressed with the way
in which, um, they, um, pulled off their stories and also the way which they explained some
of the incidents, um, that, that occurred, that causes traumatic brain injury. To our ABI students, I am proud and grateful
that you have chosen Coastline’s ABI Program to continue your rehabilitation! Please continue your outreach activities;
they are as critically important to our college and community. Each year, I look forward to mingle with each
of you, particularly eating some of the home-baked cookies, and thank God, Celeste is not counting,
as well as the friendly bidding competition. To the ABI Program Graduates— I commend
you for your dedication in overcoming very difficult challenges and gaining new skills
in order to continue to live your lives in the fullest way possible and to continue to
achieve your goals. You amaze me and I am confident that everyone
in the audience feel the same way. You are truly extraordinary individuals. We commend you for your courage and the hope
that you exemplify it every day. Today, we are honoring 17 graduates:, 8 are
transitioning to employment, 3 are going to be volunteering, 3 are attending schools,
and 3 are retiring.. These graduates are the best examples of grit,
tenacity, courage, and hope. Please join me in congratulating our graduates
and wishing them the best in their future endeavors. (Applause)
Thank you very much. Thank you Dr. Adrian, Hopefully everybody
has a program and maybe if you don’t you can raise your hand and we’ll make sure somebody
gets to you with a program. Here they come. They’re coming up right behind you. (Laughs) Hi Gail. This morning’s event would not be possible
without the hard work of many dedicated individuals and groups; on behalf of Special Programs
I would like to thank: Roy Heffleman from our IT Department for setting
up our sound. Today he has an extra challenging job! Maintenance and Operations Department for
set-up and take down. Thank yu guys! They’re all back there! To Security, Thank you Armando for “here to
serve attitude” and your willingness to assist. Special Programs and Staff and Faculty, as
I say your name, would you please stand so that we can acknowledge, acknowledge your
hard work; Lisa Winger, she’s probably over here, Lisa Shore, Erica Valle, Lori Genova,
Elizabeth Jugle; each day these ladies go above and beyond for our students, staff,
faculty, and college. Ladies you are first, you are the first welcoming
face of the Newport Beach Campus and our Department. Each of you are first in commitment, dedication,
enthusiasm, and talent. I thank you! (Applause)
Our ABI faculty Michelle Wild, Kim Peterson, Erin Crowley, Becki Friend, Jennifer Leath,
Consulting Psychologist, Dr. Jim Pasino, our graduate interns from this last year,Rita,
Amaris, Amaris, I,m sorry, Sara, and Shavanti. Our Classroom Aides and Volunteers; Bradley,
Daniel, Ashley, Kareem, Jason, and Doris. Unfortunately Our graduate speech interns
are unable to make I here today, they are both out at interviews, so hopefully, good
wishes to them, but we’d like to thank Allyssa and Jokabell for helping us this past year. (applause)
A special shout-out goes to Rachelle Lopez, is she up here? Um, our Special Programs and Services Academic
Counselor. Thank you for your support that you have offered
the ABI Program. To Dr. Tom Neal, Dean of Math, Science, Art,
and Special Programs, Thank you for your leadership, support, and guidance. It is definitely a pleasure to work with you! (Applause)
Students, for the last year, these individuals have been your “change makers’ assisting you
in learning new technologies that assist you in the development of awareness of your challenges,
establishment and practice of new strategies, skills, and abilities, and finding the strength
to move on! Lastly but certainly not least, I want to
thank the, the ABI students, alumni, their families and friends; today we honor our graduates
and celebrate all our student’s accomplishments. (applause)
The theme for this year’s graduation celebration is #ChangeYourMind. Students have been working with this theme
since the first day of the Spring term. As some of you may know, and as Dr. Adrian
reminded you earlier, March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. This past January, the Brain Injury Association
of America introduced #ChangeYourMind campaign and designated March 13, 2019 as Brain Injury
Awareness Day. The #ChangeYourMind campaign provided a platform
for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of
people with traumatic brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach
within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize injury, empower those who have survived, and
promote the many types of supports that are available. In January the campaign, the campaign was
presented to our students, alumni, staff, and faculty;did they want to participate? If so, how? The consensus was, they were in! Students immediately started researching and
gathering educational materials, discussed and decided how to educate our college and
community, signed up to represent the ABI Program at Coastline’s administration and
learning sites, and volunteered to serve on one of two student panels. They developed and practiced their presentation
skills, created talking points or what I like to refer to as thinking points and everyone
was focused! Special Programs and Services staff assisted
in proofing and assembling presentation materials, sent out numerous college-wide and community
announcements of the day’s events, ordered green awareness bracelets and other assorted
giveaways, and assembled/boxed for our presentation materials for our information booths. In total, on that day, students staffed 4
pop-up information kiosks, conducted two student panels, shared their brain injury stories
with others, and answered countless questions about what it’s like to have a brain injury. On March 13, students increased awareness
and educated, and provided education on issues related to brain injury to more than 200 students,
staff, faculty, college administrators, health care professionals, and members of the community! Thank you for your hard work. Did I say that we were all in? Yes, all of us; staff, faculty, volunteers,
and students! This is typical and of the momentum and energy
that goes into any of Special Programs and Services Project; students, volunteers, interns,
faculty and staff, everyone is in! I feel so fortunate to work with people who
care so deeply about the work they are doing and for the services they are providing and
for those special students that we all serve. In April, when I was looking for a theme for
the Graduation Celebration “Change your mind, #ChangeYourMind”was a natural choice. The theme inspired some wonderful essays;many
thanks go out to our current students who submitted an essay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your submissions. Today you will hear from three students. If you are interested in reading all this
year’s submissions, they will be available in a notebook located in the Special Services
lobby. Students, your essays provided education,
insight into the program, illustrate your struggle, and describe the strength, persistence,
and require, required to changeyourmind. In this year’s student essays students repeated
mentioned the importance of the connections made with their classmates. At a time, when due to their brain injury
they may feel isolated, they find themselves in a program with others who are experiencing
what they are experienced, or who have experienced what they experienced. They can communicate openly about their struggles
without the risk of judgement, all the while focused on the future, the possibilities,
and the opportunities ahead. Students describe their peers as their second
family, their brain injury family, their life-long friends. Connection is about commitment to one another,
freedom to speak or not speak, and knowing that they are understood. Along with teaching individuals to compensate
for their deficits, this is the true strength of the program. This morning I would like you to sit back
and listen as our student speakers guide you through their story of change . . .
Now, I have the privilege of introducing Yoko Higuchi. (Applause) Good morning. My name is Becky Friend and I’m here to assist
Yoko with her speech. She has been on my team for most of the two
years here at ABI. Yoko has aphasia. It’s a language disorder that make reading,
writing and speaking difficult for Yoko. My name is Yoko Higuchi. I was born on August 7th, 1968 in New York. My father was a banker. When I was a child, I lived in several places
including Sydney, Australia, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Before I suffered my stroke, I was a lawyer
serving in the Orange County and South Bay area. I helped many clients to obtain visas, permanent
visas, and start businesses. I graduated from UC Davis majoring in International
Relations and got a JD at George Washington University Law School in 1995. I currently live with my father and mother
in Mission Viejo as I am unable to live alone. On April 10th, 2015, doctors told me that
I have Moyamoya disease. The disease came suddenly without any symptoms. The only symptom was difficulty counting numbers. The disease is progressive and difficult to
be cured except through bypass surgery on the brain. No surgeon was able to perform this kind of
operation in Orange County. The doctor referred me to meet Dr. Steinberg
at Stanford Hospital. He is a world famous surgeon for Moyamoya
Disease. On May 13th, 2015, I had the bypass surgery
for 8 hours. The surgery went well but on the same night,
I had a stroke. I do not remember at all what happened after
the surgery. My memory of it is gone. When I started the ABI Program, I could not
read English at all. I tried hard but I could not read words. I didn’t even know my alphabet. Richard, one of my classmates encouraged me
to read articles in English using my iPad with the Text-to-Speech App. It reads sentences aloud that I can understand. I love to read and now my world has opened
to reading, thanks to Richard and the ABI program. My experience at the ABI program has changed
my daily life. Now, I can organize myself better because
I have learned how to use calendars, journals, and SMART goal. The ABI program has helped me because I can
now read sentences and my plans for the future have changed. I am confident that I can be in transition
into the community in some ways. I would like to take ESL classes and be able
to read and write much better in both Japanese and English. In the future, I would like to take English
classes at Saddleback College. I would like to access transportation and
even someday be able to drive a car. The program has made me hopeful I can volunteer
in the community. A brain injury is difficult. After my stroke and my brain injury, many
things in my life changed. These are the things that changed:
I have a loss of ability of speech. I have difficulty writing sentences. I cannot express myself as much as I would
like to. The right-side of my body is affected and
I have limited use of my right hand. I have vision problems. I have loss of short memory. It took time to admit my brain injury problems,
but now I am able to talk about my problems. I tried hard to find alternative ways to
lead a daily life. Gradually I gained confidence. I want to be with all people. I would like people to be patient with me
and not ignore me. I can listen and I do understand all conversations. My mind has changed because I was able to
gain confidence through this program and other challenges in my daily life. Thank you for all the help and support of
my teachers and friends here at Coastline College. You have given me a better quality of life. I am happy you have accepted me and given
me the opportunity to move on with my life now and in the future. Thank you. (Applause) Yoko, that was great! I think what I will do is, um, with Yoko’s
permission, I’m kind of putting her on the spot, would it be ok, Yoko, if we published
your, your speech, so everybody could appreciate it? The wind was a little bit of a challenge. Are you OK with that? With sharing your speech? Yes. Ok, ok. All right. Her story is beautiful. (Applause)
Our next speaker is Hugo Lopez. (Applause)
Hi. My name is Hugo Lopez. While attending college at OCC, I was working
as a CNC Machine Operator for an aerospace company called Aerofit. On December 14, 2016 my sister had invited
me over for dinner after work. Since I hadn’t eaten yet, I gladly went over. Later on, coming home from her house, I got
involved in a motorcycle accident and was hospitalized for about four months. Towards the end of the fourth month, I was
released from UCI hospital along with three months of occupation/cognitive and physical
therapy. When my motorcycle first, when my motorcycle
accident first happened, I was rushed over to the hospital and got treated for eleven
broken ribs, two punctured lungs, a broken left shoulder, and a brain, brain injury which
put me in coma for about two months. When my family heard from my brother in-law
that I was in a motorcycle accident and was being rushed over to the hospital, they all
too rushed over to the hospital to see how I was. When they got there, doctors had taken them
to a private room to inform them about my status situation. They explained to them that because of my
accident I had a brain injury which put in coma, and they should prepare in case I didn’t
wake up. It was hard for them to hear I might not wake. They walked over to see me in bed with medical
tubes going inside me keeping me alive. Later on, my parents had decided to take turns
watching over me. My dad was taking the night shifts and Mom
during the day. I was told that it was at night when I woke
up from coma. In the morning, my Dad had informed my family
of the good news;I had woken up from a coma. Everyone was happy and excited, a cause for
celebration! After I woke up, it was difficult for me to
think or process cognitively. The words coming out of my mouth didn’t make
sense, just rumblings which my family couldn’t understand, figure out. In a week, I had regained better consciousness
of who I was, yet my memory still finds it difficult remembering details. Then a month went by and they released me
from the hospital with three months of cognitive, occupational and physical therapy. Three months ended, but I still felt I needed
more recovery time. My sister asked my therapist if there was
anything else they could do to help me get better. He said that there was nothing else they could
do through their part but he did mentioned a program called Acquired Brain Injury at
Coastline Community College. He said that this program was for people who
have had a brain injury. They help you understand your deficits and
show you strategy techniques to use in your everyday life to help you accommodate for
your deficits. I was pretty hesitant at first since, since
it involved going back to college. I thought that overtime I would recover perfectly
on my own. Little did I know I was wrong. So I went ahead and registered for the ABI
program my therapist had mentioned. First, I had to go through a qualification
process to see if I qualified for the program. Once I was accepted, based on my test results,
they had assigned me over to Jennifer’s team over the summer. Not knowing the program, I was nervous and
anxious, thinking I would be the only one different. At first, the cognitive instructor presented
herself and explained a little bit about the program. She explained how the program was broken down
into four classes which were computers, two cognitive classes, and a psychosocial class. After she was done with her introductory,
she gave us a chance to introduce ourselves and explain to the class the type of injury
we had acquired. The introduction, the introduction had set
a comfortable atmosphere, giving us a chance to express ourselves to the class and letting
them know how we had acquired our brain injury. It made it comfortable knowing you aren’t
the only person going through these type of situations. Overtime, I gained, I gained a lot of resourceful
strategy techniques that help me get through my everyday life. For example, I wasn’t aware that To-Do Task,
Calendar, and B.E.S.T Suite app could help us accommodate for our deficits to make it
easier in functioning: strategies that help us get through our daily lives. Another great strategy we also learned was
to break down goals into steps and turn them into S.M.A.R.T goals. It challenged us cognitively trying to think
of goals that were relevant to our transition and our everyday life. I believe adapting to these strategies will
be a great addition in helping us recover our, overcome our deficits; until our struggles
take us to advance to a different team. I’m currently in Erins team, and thankfully
practicing these techniques is allowing me to get through my transition courses at OCC
along with my everyday life activities. My plans for the future is to attain my Machinery
Technology Certification from OCC. Hopefully, I can regain my position as a CNC
set-up operator for an aerospace company. Once that is acquired, I would like to save
up for a vehicle, most likely a Camaro. (laughter) I’m also going to travel my home
country, go to Puerto Escondido, and visit the rest of my family. Having a Brain Injury can impact a person’s
life drastically. After acquiring my brain injury it’s made
me more dependent to technology. Some of the deficits I now struggle with is
short term memory loss. For that, I’ve learned to use my phone to
help take notes of doctor appointments, daily tasks, and other important events. I know anyone can overcome these deficits. Just stay positive. Great things come to those who don’t stop
believing, trying, learning, and being grateful. Thank you. (Applause)
Thank you, Hugo, that was wonderful. Our third is Laura Gomez. (Applause)
Hi. (Laughs) Um, I suffered a concussion due to
a car accident on December 2, 2016. The car I was in was rear ended; I was a passenger
and my head hit the dashboard. When I first thought about this topic my plan
was to talk about my injury in detail… what happened to me, how I was affected and what
I can or can’t do anymore. What I found myself typing was this…My injury
was a turning point in my life and I get to choose which way I turn. One of the most difficult parts about my injury
is I’ve lost the confidence I had in myself, in my decision making, and in my own strength. Before my injury, I, this was easier by myself,
(laughs), Before my injury, I saw myself working at the same job for many years to come, most
likely through to retirement. Now that I don’t have that job, I’m offered
a new opportunity to look for something else, hopefully something that fulfills my life
and gives me the chance to give back to people. I’m trying to look at my injury as a second
chance, despite the daily challenges I face. I still possess all the same skills and knowledge
but accessing that information is so much harder now. My processing skills and confidence have dropped
so much and are huge barriers for me. On the outside I look exactly the same, but
so much has changed on the inside. My accident rattled my brain, and even though
I’ve, I’ve overcome most of my physical symptoms, at least the most visible ones, I’m left with
confusion, isolation, anxiety, and generally not feeling like myself. Everything that was automatic now takes effort
which is an overwhelming feeling in itself. I’m trying to get back to, to things I used
to do, which make people, makes people think ‘I’m OK, but I have good days and I have bad
days. In addition, I don’t experience all my symptoms
all at one time nor all the time, so it’s like my mind and body are playing tricks on
me. I never really thought about brain injuries,
at least not in the same respect as people typically think about other lingering ailments
or illnesses. I’m learning most people really don’t think
about brain injuries unless it’s affected them in some way or happened to someone close
to them. In the latter case, it’s more of just trying
to relate versus trying to understand a particular situation, for example, that happened to my
friend, or aunt, and so on. Some of the biggest life lessons my injury
has taught me are patience and non-judgment. There’s a reason why brain injury is referred
to as the invisible disability. You can’t see it; but what people miss is,
you can’t understand what you can’t see. I try to remind myself of that daily, not
just with people here at the program but everywhere in my life. Being here helps me remind myself to be more
mindful and compassionate. I learned about the ABI program from my occupational
therapist and, and neurologist. One year post injury, I just couldn’t understand
why my recovery was taking so long and even though I had made some good improvements,
I still felt so unlike my “old” self. I kept telling my OT and neurologist “what
more can I do?…there has to be something else I can be doing to help my own recovery”. March 2018, each of them gave me the information
about the program, surprisingly within the same week of seeing them, even though they
did not communicate often. I was so excited to receive new information,
I eagerly looked up the site and watched the testimonials. That was it for me. I HAD to come here. I started the process… application, forms,
requesting medical records. It took some time to finally get everything
but I got them turned in. I remember being so nervous to hear back and
even more nervous about the intake, my intake interview. Like I said, I HAD to get in. I remember Kim asking me “what do you want
out of the program?” To which I responded “I want to be back to
‘normal'”, adding I know it’s a long shot but you asked. Even though I still want that, I think I am
slowly realizing it’s not a realistic goal and I’m learning each day in class how I can
compensate for the skills I may not be as well at any more. Being in this program and coming here gives
me ‘purpose’ again. I have something to be accountable to and
responsible for. I have “work” to do, “work’ to go to and to
do along with deadlines. More than that, being around people who “get
it” is so comforting. I don’t think I ever thought about this aspect
before I got here. I don’t have to explain why I can’t think
fast enough, or why I’m too tired to talk or explain anything. Even better, I don’t feel “different”. I love coming here. I know I don’t know everything yet, meaning
I don’t get in practice what I am being taught every day, but I know I will and I know that
just being here pushes me to accept that I NEED to use these strategies versus ‘knowing’
I can get it all back like before. Being here doesn’t make me feel weak or incapable
for needing to use tools for things that used to come naturally to me. I am still new to the program, this being
my third session, and even though I’m looking forward to graduating in terms of being ready
to start my “new life”, I’m more looking forward to spending the next two years with these
people who have become my support system and in a sense my extended brain family. I’m still not sure where this journey will
take me but my accident definitely changed my life and now it’s up to me to decide which
way I want my life to go, an opportunity not many people are given. Most days I feel lost and stuck but I get
through each day trying to remind myself this is temporary and I’m the only one who can
get me out of this by finding new meaning. I’m nervous, scared, and excited about this
journey I’m taking, but I’m trying to stay positive and I am more excited for where this
will take me. I listen to other students and how their injury
has made them a better person and I’m really looking forward to the day where I can realize
that for myself. (Applause)
Thank you, Laura. I also want everybody to know that our first
speaker, Yashar, was unable to present his speech this morning because of an illness,
so we’re just wishing him the best and hope that he can share his speech later on with
his classmates. I’m also hopeful that when you were bidding
on the baskets that you were able to see, you were able to take in Uma’s presentation
of her essay. Um, not all students have the words, as I
think she would say, to, um, put together a full essay. So she put a pictorial of her before, during,
and after, um, that’s quite inspiring. So, and it’s over here on some poster boards
for you to enjoy. We are so proud of our students and the hard
work and dedication they demonstrate every day. All of our students are an inspiration, today,
and always, the ABI instructors want to recognize some very special student achievements. Becki, oh, there she comes. Our student of the year. Jen and I share a team. We split them and, but this, uh, decision
was a unanimous choice. Our student of the year challenges me daily. My first encounter with this student were
weekly on computer class where they would tell me all that they could not do, and sometimes
in a very loud voice! I was a little apprehensive about having the
student on my team full-time. This student volunteered for the Brain Injury
Awareness Day and attends monthly brown bags. My positive attitude is opposite to her somewhat
Eeyore attitude. My student of the year has aphasia so talking,
and reading, and writing is hard for her and she constantly reminds me of this fact. Even though speaking is hard for her, she
gets her point across! She loves taking pictures. She loves politics. She is passionate about the things she loves
including her aphasia book club and her husband. Uma, and I’m hopefully, I don’t screw up your
last name, Nithipalan, please come up here. (Applause) Uma is a hard worker, challenges
me daily, lights up when she talks about her passions, and loves homework, so with that,
and she just told us that she’s not coming back, so I’m upset. I’m like, so who’s going to argue with me? I give you, our student of the year for Team
Jen and Becky. (Applause)
This is one bad hair day (laughter), but I’m up here to do something really fun. I think this is, um, probably, actually, maybe
the best time of the whole year is to acknowledge a student who is extraordinary so that student
doesn’t have far to walk because he’s standing right next to me. Hugo. (Applause) Let me talk nice things about you. You guys already know a lot about him because
of his speech but I’ll repeat a tiny bit of that. In December if 2016, Hugo was involved in
a motorcycle accident at the age of 29. As you know, he was in a coma for nearly 60
days and spent nearly a year in various outpatient therapies. He has four siblings, three younger sisters
and one younger brother. Again, as you know, before his injury, Hugo
was working towards a certificate in machine technology at OCC. He was employed as a CNC, which I now know
is a computer numeric controlled machinist for Zodiac Aerospace and Aerofit. Hugo has been at Coastline’s ABI program for
about a year, and he’s been in my class for three of those five quarters. He has many strengths. He is standing up here next to me so that
we can all stop for a moment and recognize how extraordinary his strengths really are. Allow me to attempt to describe him in words. He is humble, he is sweet natured, hes intelligent,
and as you can see, a very talented writer. If you ask him to walk a mile, he’ll walk
four. Here’s one of the best things I like about
him the most. He is a giggler! (Laughter) I often mention his propensity
to giggle in class, but there’s not an instructor, an aide, or a classmate that wouldn’t agree,
it’s really charming and very endearing. I could go on with Hugo’s long list of strengths,
but I wanted to focus on the one that puts him up here today. Hugo’s worth, work ethic is remarkable. Every assignment given reflects tremendous
effort. He always follows through with all that is
asked of him and as I said, you’d ask him a mile and he gives you four. This spring, Hugo took thirteen units, yes,
that was not, that is correct. Thirteen units of machine technology-related
classes at OCC. That is an addition to coming to the ABI program,
four days a week, for four hours a day. I have witnessed this man standing next to
me work incredibly hard to return to work, into a life of independence and responsibility. Most of us in this audience today could not
imagine the focus, the stamina, and the strength of character that it must take to walk in
the shoes of any of these individuals who are here today with a brain injury. You deserve recognition for your efforts and
abilities, Hugo. That’s what this moment is all about. (Applause)
So I have my iPad with me just so everyone knows you can actually read it. People saw me carrying my iPad this morning
and wanted to know, what are you doing with that? Today is not a, you know, not a day like that. Well, my speech is actually on my iPad which
is very good because I don’t have to worry about the paper flying away and getting in
my way. I can also edit on the fly and I can also
airdrop this to whoever the outstanding student is. So all those things make this the perfect
solution! Um, trying to find the right words, uh, let
me, one other thing. So my day started with Janice sharing her
speech which got me going, and then from there on it’s just been non-stop. So I apologize in advance for this. Trying to find the right words to share about
the outstanding student is always difficult for me. I know my students are used to me over-sharing,
but this is very different. I struggle doing justice to their journey
and acknowledging their many accomplishment. Having said that, I hope the team Michele
outstanding student this year, Steve Williams, won’t give me too hard of a time and yet I
know better! (laughter and applause) Steve started the ABI program in spring 2017. His journey to the ABI program is a bit different
than most. It started with many years, started many ago
with a heart condition that led to many challenges, including an artificial heart for a period
of time, a heart transplant, and then a stroke. He wasn’t sure the ABI program was the right
place for him when he started. He had already been through a prolonged medical
issue, a lifelong journey really, that had been resolved to a certain extent. Now he was dealing with something completely
different. His brain injury is another lifetime journey
but one that doesn’t have a solution, for lack of a better word. He was filled with questions and struggled
to make sense of and explain his new challenges. Did I say he was full of questions? No really, I love a good challenge. Steve and I met the morning, Steve and I met
in the morning and after school quite often talking about his cognitive challenges. To talk about how what we were doing in class
related to him and to talk about strategies. He wasn’t always ready to hear what I had
to say, but he always listened. He always thought about our conversations
and came back the next time with counter ideas, examples, insights, and yes, more questions. Steve is a fun-loving and very caring guy. He enjoys joking around and has made some
amazing friends in the program. He loves photography and goes out with Shawn,
another ABI graduate today, does lunch with small groups of students while, everything
posted on Facebook so we all get to follow it, and can be counted on to help out whenever
asked. He volunteers and Cedars-Sinai by talking
with and giving hope to heart patients that are at an earlier stage in their journey. He wants to begin volunteering to help brain
injury survivors in the same way. He is a different guy as he graduates today. Don’t get me wrong, he still asks questions
and he’s learning to accept the new him. He found a community that understands and
loves the new him. He’s finding his own voice as a brain injury
survivor and I can’t wait to see what he does with it. (Applause) Thank you, Michelle. Congratulations, students. (Applause)
Now to our graduates. The graduates of 2018-19 have demonstrated
outstanding dedication and perseverance in addressing their cognitive, interpersonal,
and establishing their community transition. We are fortunate to have most of our graduates
with us today. Those who are unable to join us are either
working, volunteering, or attending classes. Today we honor and congratulate 17 graduates. Dr. Adrian, Dr. Prinsky, and Mary Hornbuckle,
will join us to present the awards? Graduates, as I call your name, please come
up to the platform so that you may receive your certificate. After you received your certificate, please
gather at the top of the stairs. Go there so that we can get a group photo. As I introduce each graduate, I will read
a quote that means something special to them. These quotes have served as a reflection of
how their mind has changed through their participation in the ABI program. Help me in congratulating the ABI 2018-19
graduates. Our first graduate is Shaun Kirkman. (applause) Shaun Kirkman’s quote is, “When
do you do, What you do when life throws you a major-league curve-ball? Swing away and push forward.” (Applause) Franklin DeGray. (Applause) Franklin DeGray’s quote is, “Never
say Never. Never give up.” (Applause) Our next graduate is Yoko Higuchi. (Applause) Yoko’s quote is, “If you’ve tried
10,000 times and failed and are exhausted, try one more time. In the hundred, in the ten thousand and one
try, something might change.” (Applause) Robin Hillsivec. (Applause) Robin Hillsivec quote is, “You
got to feel it to heal it.” (Applause) Our next graduate is Chandler Kirby. (Applause) Chandler’s quote is, “What likes
behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Applause) Our next graduate is Michelle Mac. Michelle’s quote, “You know my name, not my
story. You’ve heard what I’ve done, not where I’ve
been. What I’ve been through, if you were in my
shoes, you’d fall at the first step.” (Applause) Our next graduate is Larry Mann. (Applause) Larry Mann’s quote, “I’m not defined
by my brain injury, but rather how I adjust and move forward from my brain injury.” (Applause) Our next quote is from Chadwick
McDonald. (Applause) His quote is, “Believe you can
and you’re halfway there.” -Theodore Roosevelt. (Applause) Our next graduate is Dan Orakawa. Dan’s quote, “I’m living my best life.” (Applause) Out nest grad, next graduate is
Earnest Pata. (Applause) Earnest quote is, “What we achieve
burn, inwardly will change our outer reality.” I also was told it’s Earnest’s birthday today. Happy Birthday, Earnest. (Applause) Our next graduate is Kenneth Pack. Kenneth’s quote is, “Destiny is not a matter
of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is
a thing to be achieved.” -William Jennings Bryant. (Applause) Our next graduate is Allison Patrick. Allison’s quote is, “Sometime you change your
mind, changes you.” – Rabbi B. Schumann. (Applause) Our next graduate is Gustavo Valencia. (Applause) His quote is, “Only I can change
my future, nobody can do it for me.” Congratulations Gustavo! (Applause) And our last graduate that we’re
honoring today is Steve Williams. (Applause) “If it is to b e, it is up to me.” (Applause) Graduates, the ABI faculty and
staff would like to thank you for your dedication and hard work. Your involvement in our program has made it
a better program and we appreciate your contributions. You are proof that this program works and
makes a difference. Graduates, may you continue your pursuit of
changing minds. Thank you for joining us this morning. From the special programs staff, faculty,
and students, we appreciate your support. It has been my pleasure to have you with us
on our campus today and I hope to see you next year. Thank you so much. (Applause) ♪