Twenty-five graduates will celebrate milestones achieved at Lesley University
Friday, April 19, 2013
As the 25 graduates reflect upon their experiences in the Threshold Program, they say they’ve learned to live independently, developed rich social lives, and prepared themselves to succeed in meaningful, fulfilling jobs.
“I learned how to live with other people, stay in a budget, and make a list before you go to the grocery store,” reflected Jennie Giblin, who is from Westborough, Mass., and is majoring in early childhood. “My plan is to get a job at a preschool and I’m trying to get an apartment here. I like to work with children.”
Threshold serves young adults with learning disabilities and other special needs in an on-campus residential environment. This year’s graduating class will be addressed by graduation speaker Mike Kersjes, an innovative special education teacher and mentor, who will share his experience establishing a space camp program in conjunction with NASA through which high school students compete in a variety of activities similar to those experienced by astronauts in training for space shuttle missions.
“I plan to speak to the students about the power of the human spirit within them and what they can do,” said Kersjes, founder of the Space is Special organization and author of “A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp.”
“I see the benefit of making kids understand that they’ve got to step outside their box and be risk takers, but they’ve also got to understand that while risk taking and facing challenges, people like myself are there to help them go beyond their comfort zone and be something more than they’re told they can be,” Kersjes said.
“Former Lesley Trustee Chair, Don Perrin, told me about the book, ‘A Smile as Big as the Moon,’ and I read Mike’s book and immediately called him,” recalled Threshold Director Jim Wilbur. “His message of total optimism resonated with me.”
Founded in 1982, Threshold now boasts over 600 alumni, who spent two or three years on Lesley’s campus.“It’s an awesome school. I learned a lot about being independent,” said Mike Nguyen, a business major from Braintree, Mass., who also graduates in May.
Graduate Jay Kim, from Acton, Mass., notes the benefits of living on the Lesley University campus and interacting with students, faculty and staff.
“As you get along with your education during your two years, you start making friends,” said Kim, who is interning at a television studio and plans for a career in TV production and editing.
“I do office work now in Malden with an internship through Threshold,” added graduate Sandhya KC, a business major from Bedford, Mass.
Upon completion of the Threshold Program, students receive certificates of completion and six college credits at a formal graduation ceremony, held each year in May.
Mike Kersjes lives in Huntsville, Alabama, and speaks widely to professional education groups about his work through Space is Special. During the last 10 years, he has raised over $3 million to bring over 3,000 special needs students to space camp.
“I’m reaching out and helping special education teachers and students in any way I can,” said Kersjes.Kersjes is a Vietnam Veteran who holds at bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology, and a master’s degree in educational administration. His book is currently used in the curriculum at 13 universities in the United States, and it has been published in Japan, Australia, Korea and Taiwan.
Kersjes’s book was also adapted into a television movie, "A Smile as Big as the Moon," starring John Corbett, which tells Kersjes’s inspiring story of taking his class of special education students to NASA's Space Camp.
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