A student showers confetti as graduates exit the ceremonyConfetti flew as students exited the Dutchess BOCES Conference Center following the Resilience Academy and In-District Programs Graduation June 21. Passing under the balloon arch, their tassels turned to the left, the students couldn’t wait to embrace their family and friends after an inspirational ceremony.
“I don’t think I'd be standing here today if I hadn’t started at BOCES when I did,” shared Chloe Mort.
Speaking to the crowd earlier that afternoon, she added, “Attending Dutchess BOCES has made me a stronger, smarter and a more empathetic human. This school gave me so many opportunities to grow and evolve which gave me a much brighter outlook on life.”
Mort shared her difficulties in school before BOCES and her fear that nothing would change when she transferred here. Despite these fears, she made true friends on her first day, and found that the teachers “care more than anything about our success.” She added, “I never saw myself graduating at all, let alone graduating early.”
Mort thanked her family and specific teachers and staff that made a difference. This included Principal Kiesha Tillman, who in her first year at BOCES, “did everything in her power to make the school a safer and better learning environment by getting input from the students on what we could change.”
Laughter filled the room as the next student speaker, Caitlin Cowperthwaite, shared her experiences in the PEACCE program (Providing an Education for Autistic and Communication Impaired Children Effectively).
Caitlin Cowperthwaite speaks at the graduation“I’ve been in the PEACCE program since middle school. Having support in the classroom meant there was someone to help me with Algebra 1A and ‘y2- y1 equals y… something.’ That’s actually how I felt about the algebra.” She added, “I’m filling everyone with laughter right now… I’d be a good comedian!” The audience agreed.
Cowperthwaite continued, “If you are diagnosed with autism, I would 100% recommend doing this program. It is the best program ever, you will not regret it. It helps you succeed.”
Students also heard remarks from Dutchess County Executive Sue Serino, Deputy Superintendent Jodi DeLucia, and Deputy Director for Astor Day Treatment in the Hudson Valley, Salena Gray.
A variety of awards were presented during the ceremony.
TEG Federal Credit Union presented the Cathy Romano Writing Award to Chloe Mort, Overcoming Obstacles Award to Keyon Franklin and Good Citizenship Award to Brayden Humbert. Chloe Mort also received the BOCES Education Foundation Award and Annalise Spinelli Memorial Award. Caitlyn Cowperthwaite, Victoria Myers and Brayden Humbert received the BOCES Faculty Association Graduation Achievement Awards.
Chloe and Jyan pose for a photoHumbert, a member of the student council, shared his favorite memory from his time at the Resilience Academy while enjoying lunch with his fellow graduates before the ceremony.

Jake with art teacher Caroline VanWagner

“We (the student council) put together a holiday party for the Pegasus students to let them know that we value them as part of our community. They deserve it and they are my favorite kids here.” He also enjoyed volunteering his time at Salt Point Center during ninth period each Tuesday and Thursday, where he worked with his cousin who attends the school. Humbert looks forward to attending Columbia-Greene Community College to study special education and construction technology.
The immense support of the BOCES community was easily seen during the ceremony: teachers and staff held up signs congratulating students as they received their hard-earned certificates of completion.
During Gray’s closing remarks, Pegasus student Keyon Franklin added his thoughts, which were met with applause: “You only have one life to live.”
Congratulations to the class of 2024. You did it!