Cranston resident Kaleigh Pedroso and recent resident Kieanna Roy became two of the first students to ever graduate from a fully inclusive 8th grade class at the Grace School at Meeting Street.
The Grace School at Meeting Street’s graduation ceremony was held Wednesday, June 13 in Providence. Ten students graduated in total from the school.
“Fully inclusive” means that the school had children both with and without disabilities in it. The ten graduates from their first graduating class will be attending a variety of high schools, including Bishop Hendricken, St. Raphael, Classical, Davis, and St. Patrick’s academy.
Pedroso will stay at Meeting Street for the next chapter of her education, attending their Cater School, which, according to Meeting Street spokesman Matt Blanchette, has an “innovative approach to education” that “extends far beyond the classroom door.” He said that its programs support education, vocational opportunities, and recreational and social activities tailored to each student’s specific interests and abilities, as the Carter School is solely for students with special needs.
Pedroso started at Meeting Street with the Early Intervention program, then attended the Early Learning Center before going on to graduate from the Grace School.
“Nothing brightens a room like Kaleigh walking through the door,” Amy Bergeron, Pedroso’s middle school teacher, said. “Her smile and heartwarming ‘hi’ let us all know that we are ready to begin class. Whether she is requesting music on her iPad that she affectionately refers to as Debby or asking if the activity she is doing is ‘all done,’ Kaleigh is always making everyone around her laugh. A day without Kaleigh is a day without joy.”
Roy, meanwhile, started at the Grace School in kindergarten and is still deciding where she’ll go to school next year. She spent most of her life in Cranston, but recently moved to Providence, according to Blanchette.
“Kieanna Roy continuously shows that she has a big heart and a love for learning,” said Roy’s middle school teacher Patricia Hawkins. “Kieanna always jumps at the chance to help her friends when they are in need, and makes a point to ensure that everyone is included in an activity.”
Hawkins also lauded the joy Roy brought to her classroom.
“Though she speaks with a soft voice, Kienna is very smart and always brings a touch of humor to class,” Hawkins said. “She has a beautiful smile that lights up the room.”
"This has been 12 years in the making,” said Margaret Knowlton, director of school-age services, in a statement about the Grace School’s graduating class. “We're looking forward to becoming a showcase for other schools and districts on how to do inclusion the correct way.”
She added, “the key to this now well-oiled program is the team work. With therapists, teacher assistants, and two teachers in every classroom, all students are able to learn together rather than being in self-serving programs.”
“Meeting Street’s Grace School fosters both academic excellence and individual growth in children of all abilities,” Blanchette said in a statement. “It does this through inclusive classrooms where students with and without special needs learn side-by-side each day, receiving individualized instruction and rigorous academics in an award-winning, state-of-the-art facility. The Grace School’s culture of compassion nurtures open-mindedness, creating thoughtful leaders for tomorrow through activities like student-led meetings and leadership tasks that draw upon the strengths and interests of each individual child. The school also involves families and the community in the learning process; families are asked to stay actively connected to their child's educational experience as well as their school culture.”
As for Pedroso’s future at the school, Bergeron said: “We are all very jealous of the Carter School staff because they will get to spend the next several years working with Kaleigh every day.”