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First Ever Virtual Graduation for The Children’s Center at USM

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 13:08pm | By: Courtney Tesh

Everyly Kate in her graduation gown and cap“My heart was crushed when, after looking forward to a big graduation to-do for a four-and-a-half-year-old, we realized that wouldn’t be possible due to current circumstances,” said Alyse May, mother of Everly Kate. Everly Kate has been receiving therapy at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) since she was an infant.

And as her family prepared to leave the Center and move on to kindergarten, they were faced with the reality that COVID-19-related restrictions would likely mean no ceremony to commemorate this big day and to celebrate how far their daughter has come. Just like the other 20 families whose children were set to graduate this year, the thought that they wouldn’t have a chance to join each other and The Children’s Center’s staff and acknowledge the hard work their children have accomplished was disappointing to say the least.

Graduation is just a day. Just one day, and just one milestone in a long line of milestones sure to come in each child’s future. But it is so much more than that. For the families at The Children’s Center it is a day to remember where they started and marvel at how far they have come. It is being told your baby would likely never walk and then watching as she moves across the stage (walking unassisted, with a walker, in a power chair) to accept her diploma. It is waiting for your three-year-old to say his first words and then watching as he sings “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (verbally or with a communication device). And for Everly’s family, it is wondering how your non-verbal daughter will ever be able to express all of her thoughts and feelings to the outside world and then watching as she sings “Wheels on the Bus” with her eye-gaze device.

At The Children’s Center, graduation is not a day. It is a look into the past and a glimpse into the future. It is remembering, celebrating, and looking forward. Seeing how much progress you and your child have made and knowing how much further you will go in the days, months, and years ahead. It is more than a day, and it simply cannot be skipped, regardless of the circumstances.

And no one knows this more than the staff at The Children’s Center. Faced with the fact that a typical graduation ceremony would not be an option this year, the Center made the decision to host their first ever virtual graduation May 30.

“To say this is a special event at The Children’s Center is an understatement,” said Sarah Myers, director of the Center. “We know full well the amount of determination and consistent work our families put into their child’s development, and ultimately their future. Cancelling this event was simply not an option.”

And the families were so grateful for this decision. “The Children’s Center went above and beyond what anyone could have expected from a virtual graduation,” said Alyse May. “Our girl was able to show off her talent on her eye gaze. And getting to hear from the therapists one-on-one through this virtual format was perfect! The Children’s Center thought of everything and made sure our children’s hard work was showcased and celebrated so wonderfully.”

To watch a portion of the virtual graduation, visit The Children’s Center’s Facebook page or click on the following link:


About The Children’s Center for Communication and Development

The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi is a non-profit that provides cost-free communicative and developmental transdisciplinary services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers while educating, training and supporting families, university students and professionals. For more information, visit or