North Pointe grads beat oddsPublished 3:23pm Friday, June 8, 2012
DOWAGIAC — The first time teacher Molly High met Caylean Ramirez of Niles six years ago, her head was down, determined to go unnoticed.
By the time Caylean blossomed into an artist and graduated Friday from North Pointe Center with Melinda Bloomer of Hartford and Cameron Lampen of Jones, the Edwardsburg native was not only studying at Southwestern Michigan College and sculpting blind-folded, but taught her teacher to throw clay on the wheel.
“Her instructor said this quiet, shy girl with a disability was teaching her non-disabled college peers, which is amazing,” High said.
“As she became more comfortable, she began to come out of her shell. She role-played skits to help students grasp concepts with costumes and props. She also played jokes on me. She hung fake spiders from my desk, put a giant magnet under my drawer so I couldn’t get my scissors out and once curled up inside my cupboard. I thought she was missing and went into panic mode, but everyone was in on it, of course. I heard a phone ring in the cupboard. When I opened it, she jumped up and grabbed me.”
The weekend of Dowagiac garage sales, High said Ramirez noticed a boy playing by himself at an elementary school, so bought a stuffed animal and gave it to him.
Susan Higgins shared similar testimony to five years with Bloomer, while Lisa Quimby related how Lampen was also uncommunicative, kept to himself and washed his hands incessantly to avoid engaging in the classroom.
“A funny thing happened in two years,” Quimby said. “Cameron will answer the telephone and gave his mother my message. He plays games with the other students, participates, made friends, reads aloud, raises his hand and has been working at two jobs,” including the Ross Beatty cafeteria.
“This is an important event for us here at Lewis Cass (Intermediate School District), Supt. Robert Colby said.
“We’re like family. Staff members have come from every one of our facilities because these young people have been with us for such a long time and overcome almost insurmountable odds to get to where they’re at.”
Special Education Supervisor Pete Bennett added, “We get together like this to mark milestones because we want to recognize things we value. First and foremost, we value family and relationships we had with people. Getting to this point takes another thing we value highly — hard work on the part of students, staff and parents, who have the most direct impact in raising a child. Their excitement at going on to successful independent living, supportive living arrangements and productive work should have us excited. These are good people, and it took good people to get them here. Seeing your journey begin re-energizes all of us.”
Special Education Director Louis Chism awarded completion certificates.
A reception and dance followed.