The Florida Center for Early Childhood Provides Mobile Graduation Ceremony to VPK Students

Coconut Telegraph

SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JUN 3, 2020

Students enrolled in The Florida Center for Early Childhood's Starfish Academy Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program received a surprise graduation visit from their teachers and principal over the weekend. Traditionally, the school hosts a graduation ceremony where VPK students receive their diplomas and teachers get a chance to wish them well before they progress to kindergarten. However, due to Covid-19, the event could not take place. Instead, the preschool’s two VPK teachers, Rashalla Davenport and Gina Furey along with Principal Susan Carney, visited 14 students at their homes and presented each of them with a red balloon, portfolio of school work and diploma. Students posed in a “Class of 2020” photo frame and traditional graduation cap.

“We made 14 stops from Palmetto to Venice but it was totally worth it,” said Carney. “Many of these students have disabilities and/or developmental delays and worked really hard to make it through the program. We wanted to do something special for their tremendous efforts.” Starfish Academy, with campuses in Sarasota and North Port, operates an inclusion program in which typically developing students learn alongside those with special needs. The program encourages all students to reach their full potential. While the final weeks of the school year were challenging, the students remained connected through classroom chat sessions, educational YouTube videos, and one-on-one virtual sessions with teachers.

“It was a very sweet reunion as most of the children had not seen their teachers in person in over two months,” Carney added. “For them to come to their houses and say goodbye meant a lot.” Students attending Starfish Academy in North Port had a “drive through graduation” where parents and students pulled up in vehicles to say goodbye while teachers distributed diplomas and goody bags. "They are academically and socially-emotionally prepared for the big move, thanks to the instruction of dedicated teachers and therapists," said Tanya Ruiz, principal of Starfish Academy in North Port. We couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishment."

Pictured, left to right: Jace Lehman received his diploma and swag bag from teachers while seated in his car seat during a drive-through graduation at Starfish Academy in North Port. Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) teachers Gina Furey and Rashalla Davenp

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