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Carmel High Holds Special Graduation

In an era of 24-hour news cycles that leave Christian New Yorkers feeling inundated with bad news, it’s nice to hear about something good that has happened in our state.

Like other high schools across New York, Carmel High School recently held its graduation ceremony. For the parents of Jack Higgins, a severely autistic student with a high level of sensitivity to sound, the graduation presented a challenging question: Should Jack participate? Or would the noise be too much for him to handle?

Jack’s parents, Pat and Barbara Higgins, decided that Jack should attend the ceremony. Jack had attended Carmel High School’s PACE program for eight years and was scheduled to graduate in 2019. Carmel High School principal Lou Riolo worked with his staff on a strategy that would allow Jack to participate. According to the Examiner News, at the beginning of the June 20 ceremony, Riolo “asked the entire graduating class and their family and friends in attendance to ‘not clap and not cheer’ so Jack could walk on stage first and receive his diploma just like his classmates would later that evening.” Here’s what happened next:

Jack, accompanied by his two brothers and his school aide, slowly walked across the stage in Carmel’s traditional blue robe with his hands near his ears and accepted his hard-earned diploma from Riolo… [M]embers of the graduating class gave Jack a standing ovation without making a sound, with most in attendance shaking their hands back-and forth, which is clapping in sign language.

Barbara Higgins said that she wished “she could give every graduating senior a big hug for the way they stepped up for Jack and her family that day. ‘It’s something that my husband and I will never forget,’ she said. ‘It was a beautiful night.’”