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KDES graduates “Journey to Greatness”

Image: Graduation speaker Diana Mendez-Leon spoke of the many accomplishments that brought her class together.

Graduation speaker Diana Mendez-Leon spoke of the many accomplishments that brought her class together.

In fall 2013, the new Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) principal Debra Trapani challenged the community to "Aim High." The 13 members of the Class of 2014 took up that challenge and, at their graduation held on June 4 in the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD)'s Theatre Malz, the class speaker Diana Mendez-Leon spoke of the many accomplishments that united her class.

A significant achievement for Mendez-Leon was the end-of-the-year production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in which she played the role of Helena. "Even the first and second graders were in the play. I am honored to pass down one last experience together so they can grow and thrive here at KDES like we all did and aim for greatness," said Mendez-Leon, whose family came to KDES from Mexico when she was four so she could have more opportunities to succeed. In her address she credited KDES for inspiring her to believe in herself.


The class invited alumna Carla Shird as their graduation speaker. Shird is coordinator of services and a psychotherapist at the Gallaudet University Mental Health Center. She is proud to have graduated from KDES (1989), MSSD (1993), and Howard University (2001).

Shird told the graduating class that "greatness is a journey, not a destination ... greatness means being the best at being you--to believe, to unleash your potential, to trust yourself and not compare yourself with others." When she was at KDES, Shird played on the basketball team and was known as "Butter fingers" for dropping the ball; however, she unleashed her greatness by giving her fullest effort in all other phases of the game. One of those skills was being a team player and "I unleashed my skills in leadership ... which assist me with being a counselor today," she said.

She advised the class to remember when they transition to the new world of high school that, "Greatness is not about who does what best but what you do best for yourself--using your knowledge, talent, and passion."

Eliyas Assefa and Jennida Willougby, from the graduating class, served as the master and mistress of ceremonies. Zhencheng Chen, Bailey Doleac, Yesenia Garcia, and Sohnae McCray performed an American Sign Language (ASL) rendition of the national anthem, and Yolanda Ford acted out an "A-Z" poem in ASL. The Middle School Leadership Team presented the following awards of special merit:


KDES Class of 2014

The Middle School leadership team presented the following awards of special merit:

  • Elizabeth Jackson Award: Zhencheng Chen
  • Linwood Smith Award: Diana Mendez-Leon
  • Wildcat Athletic Award: Gabriela Villatoro
  • Malcolm Norwood Award: Bailey Doleac and Sohnae McCray
  • Kendall Cup Award: Jennida Willoughby

"As our students head to high school, we want to offer our best wishes to all of our graduates as they take their journey of greatness to the next level," said Trapani.

 KDES 2014 Cake