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“Graduating” with Arts and Letters at Hamaspik’s STARS Program

Alphabet-themed Season Culminates with “Commencement” Activity

On Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, students at Hamaspik of Rockland County’s STARS program “graduated.”


The graduation-themed activity was yet another in a string of arts and crafts and other activities themed by the letters comprising the word “Hamaspik.” 


But more importantly, it was an activity that the STARS students chose themselves.


And bringing to life the theme of “School” (as in, graduation from school), it not only began with the “s” in “Hamaspik,” but also brought to life the notion of a real graduation—so much so that STARS Director Mrs. Esty Schonfeld is now weighing the real deal for the students.


After all, with each new life skill that STARS students have acquired in recent months, they have graduated—moved up to greater independence, and the greater self-confidence and self-esteem that comes with that greater independence.


For one student, who very much wanted to be the activity’s featured Speaker (a.k.a. valedictorian), the “graduation” was particularly exciting, despite her vision difficulties.


The student wasn’t about to let a seeing impairment get in the way of her reciting a “commencement address” from the podium—and a friend, a fellow student, was with her all the way.


Of her own volition, that fellow student “jumped up with an idea,” Mrs. Schonfeld reports—to personally type up the speech on a computer, and then print it out in extra-large typeface.


In no time at all, with her staff’s help, that was done.


With cheering staff looking on, the STARS student body looked radiantly resplendent in their purple robes and tasseled black caps, thoroughly enjoying the school-themed activity from start to finish.


Besides a colorfully-bedecked welcome table for guests, the highlight of the activity was the “valedictorian’s” speech—which, though being a facsimile of an authentic commencement address, spoke to the very real gains that STARS participants achieved throughout the year.


“Today we have become Hamaspik graduates,” the speech began.


“Each of us had our own unique experience at Hamaspik,” the speaker continued.  “Times of laughter and joy; times of triumph and tears; times we got to master so many skills: cooking, baking, art, home economics, organizing skills.”


“Today marks the end yet another extraordinary chapter in our lives. The end of this journey is truly ours, a day in which reminisce upon and celebrate our success—sweet moments and yes, even tears went into the hard work that brought to our success today,” the speech concluded.  “So let’s all throw up our caps!  Congratulations and hatzlacha [success] on the future!”


The air was shortly filled with flying ceremonial headgear.


“It was amazing seeing the ladies with all smiles and feeling so accomplished,” the STARS Director says—adding, “Grads 2017, it was great!”


It may not have been a real graduation.  But for the young women participating, all decked out in caps and gowns, the activity—and milestone after milestone mentioned in the commencement address”—was real enough.