White Dog and The White Dog Army did not get the chance to wish Michael "Good Luck," he left the house fully dressed in his graduation clothes at 7:30 in the morning. Graduation was at 4:30 this afternoon.
This was a special day; the end of Michael's education. He was graduating from our public school system's community transitions program which has been his "classroom" for the past three years. His progress within the program was so exemplary that he was asked to give a speech at commencement. He has worked on the speech for weeks and practiced it a million times. I worried the task might be more than the attention avoiding Michael might be able to complete.
It turns out the some of the class met back at school and spent the day together. We did not see him until we went to the auditorium at the National Hispanic Cultural Museum for the ceremony. This is a venue that houses professional performances and is sized accordingly. It was nearly a full house. Michael sat on the stage with the other student speakers wearing a tie that was a new accessory (he had insisted that one was NOT necessary and that he would not buy one). I saw him consciously trying not to think about the fabric around his neck. I feared from his perspective that the crowd was daunting...three tiers of seats quickly filling with strangers all looking forward...at him. I had visions of him walking off stage partway through his talk...or worse. I silently asked our Angel White Dogs to guide him through.
The lights dimmed and stage lights came up as the rest of the class filed into the front rows of seats. The principal charged the Class of 2014 with going out to make a difference. Then Michael's lead teacher was telling the room how our Michael was a perfect example of determination and accomplishment. To applause Michael calmly walked to the podium and without stammer or misspeak delivered a five-minute speech on what his education meant to him! He was awesome!
Later when Steve asked if he was nervous, Michael said no and told us why. He said he had practiced a lot and that he had taken this picture with him for strength...
After, we went to a favorite Mexican seafood restaurant with the very first teacher Michael had when he arrived in Albuquerque. This man was instrumental in opening our then scared and angry human rescue to the possibility that he COULD walk across campus alone, cross busy streets, learn to control anger outbursts, ride the bus, problem solve, direct his own destiny. He was a teacher in the purest sense of the word and guided Michael into the transition program where he could apply the confidence he was developing. Mr. Juarez came as our guest to the ceremony and had tears in his eyes when Michael walked across the stage to receive his diploma. Dinner was a celebration in the way New Mexico does it best, lots of music, fun, and laughter. For once, Michael did not seem to mind being the center of attention.
The White Dogs flooded over him when we arrived home and he allowed them to sniff his diploma. They watched Steve's movie of the highlights of the ceremony including the speech. We shared more celebration with ice cream covered with sprinkles. Michael said, "it feels like we are all here, even Oso, Quinn and Nuka. Thank you all for making this such a wonderful moment."
And a wonderful moment it was.