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Home > Clerc Center > MSSD graduation 2012

Embracing second best, a graduation story

Image: Salutatorian Chelsea Lee gave remarks to her fellow graduates on the merits of being second best. (Photo: Susan Flanigan)

Salutatorian Chelsea Lee gave remarks to her fellow graduates on the merits of being second best. (Photo: Susan Flanigan)

Image: Following each MSSD commencement exercises, the new graduates gather to toss their caps in the air.

Following each MSSD commencement exercises, the new graduates gather to toss their caps in the air.

Image: Jessica Norte (center) gathered with the nine members of her family who made a special trip from Ghana to celebrate her graduation. (Photo: Catherine Valcourt-Pearce)

Jessica Norte (center) gathered with the nine members of her family who made a special trip from Ghana to celebrate her graduation. (Photo: Catherine Valcourt-Pearce)

Image: MSSD science teacher, Dorothy Wynn (second from right), taught four members of MSSD graduate Katherine Fishbein’s family—Katherine (second from left), her mother Rosemary Fishbein-Werner (left), and her aunt Lisa Fishbein (right).  Wynn also taught Katie's stepbrother Jay Werner (not pictured). (Photo: Catherine Valcourt-Pearce)

MSSD science teacher, Dorothy Wynn (second from right), taught four members of MSSD graduate Katherine Fishbein’s family—Katherine (second from left), her mother Rosemary Fishbein-Werner (left), and her aunt Lisa Fishbein (right). Wynn also taught Katie's stepbrother Jay Werner (not pictured). (Photo: Catherine Valcourt-Pearce)

Image: Franly Ulerio-Nunez, who was awarded the Alan R. Williams Memorial Scholarship, enjoys a moment with Tyese Wright, MSSD transition specialist.

Franly Ulerio-Nunez, who was awarded the Alan R. Williams Memorial Scholarship, enjoys a moment with Tyese Wright, MSSD transition specialist.

Image: Lukas Morkevicius a native of Lithuania made one of his trade mark leaps of joy to the amazement of onlookers.

Lukas Morkevicius a native of Lithuania made one of his trade mark leaps of joy to the amazement of onlookers.

Chelsea Lee, salutatorian of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD), is comfortable with the role of second best.  Standing on a podium to raise her height above the lectern, she began her remarks to the audience at the 41st Commencement Exercises with a kind of cheerful defiance. "What's wrong with being second best?" As the salutatorian for the Class of 2012, she had earned the second highest Grade Point Average in her class.

"I am used to being second. My older brother did everything before me. He graduated before me," she said. Lee shared how own story of perseverance. She had to temporarily leave MSSD for health reasons. She overcame that set back and returned to the school she considered, "her home, her family." She is grateful for the support of her school and her family, and wanted her fellow graduates to remember the importance of small things, secondary things.  She quoted the poet Maya Angelou, "... people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." She encouraged her 35 other classmates to remember the things that make someone feel better, a smile, help with homework-things that makes a difference.

Give students a second chance. Lee shared the story of a man named Jaime Escalante, a math teacher at Garfield High School, East Los Angeles, Calif.  in the 1970s who believed if the students learned the language of math they could succeed in getting jobs. Escalante received great opposition to his plans to set higher standards in math but together with his students' hard work he ended up with many students successfully learning math, even passing the Advanced Placement exams for calculus. His inspiring story, Lee said, was made into a 1988 film called Stand and Deliver.

As Lee crossed the stage to accept her diploma on June 8, she marched behind Brennan Terhune-Cotter, the class valedictorian. After receiving her diploma, like the other graduates, she took a moment at the edge of the stage to address the audience, pose for photographs, and move the tassel on her graduation cap from the undergraduate side to the graduate side. She paused, and with an amusing smile, signed "See, I'm still coming second in line," and was proud of it.

CLASS of 2012

Congratulations to our MSSD graduates and their families. The graduation ceremony was held at Gallaudet University's Elstad Auditorium. Kelby Brick, a deaf attorney and vice president of Purple Communications, Inc., gave the commencement address. Valedictorian Brennan Terhune-Cotter and Salutatorian Chelsea Lee, each gave remarks at the ceremony.

The following graduating seniors received scholarship awards:

Peter B. Hobbs Memorial Scholarship
Brennan Terhune-Cotter

Stephanie Joyner Scholarship Award
Mark Ferrer

Alan R. Williams Memorial Scholarship
Franly Ulerio-Nunez and Jessica Nortey

Gallaudet University Scholarships

Albert Blake
Kate Brown
Angela Evatt
Jo Anna Faircloth
Kelly Graham
Chelsea Lee
Dylan Levinson
Anna Lynch
Molly Perkins
Sara Selzer
Rebecca Szynkowski
Ernest Willman