Some people have written to me to say that Jeremy’s graduation speech is difficult for them to understand on the U-Tube video, so here is a transcript:
I have spent seven years at Torrey Pines High School.
Three years ago, I walked the graduation ceremony. Today I walk the same path, in the same cap and gown, but I have now earned my academic diploma.
My education at Torrey Pines has been my greatest achievement. I was once diagnosed autistic and severely retarded. When I arrived at Torrey Pines, I could not communicate and I spent my days in a class for the severely handicapped. Now I am going to college. I am writing a book about my life. I have become an inspiration nationally to many parents and educators of children with autism.
My story is like Helen Keller’s, the deaf, mute, and blind girl. Helen Keller had a teacher, Anne Sullivan, who taught her and took her out of isolation. My first great teacher was my mom, then the high school teachers.
My favorite story about Torrey Pines is when my teacher, Allan Gustafson, realized for the very first time that I understood everything. He was really trying to learn how to communicate with me. He said “Jeremy, I know you are in there somewhere. I can’t know what you are capable of unless you tell me.” I looked at him and saw tears in his eyes. I really wanted to make him happy. My nice teacher continued to try and reach me. He said, “Give me a sign.” I looked at him and spelled with him for the first time. Great teacher Allan was so happy.
The teachers here gave me good advice on more than just the subjects they taught. They understood that I might be different on the outside, but that on the inside I was just like any other student. Other important people include the ladies in the administration building who always said “hi” to me, and told me they were happy to see me. My speech teacher, Dr. Palmer, was nice, even if she tried to convince me to become a Republican. An exciting memory from this campus is when an MTV camera crew followed me around campus for the show, True Life: “I Have Autism”.
I would like to thank Bruce Cochrane, Director of Pupil Services, for the chance he took and the faith he had in me. I would like to thank the administrators, the school staff, the educators, (including Maureen and Janine), for allowing my voice to be heard. Without you, my life would still be imprisoned in darkness.
Nicely I wish I had made more friends from my years here. Being autistic, that is the hardest part. It is important to include all students in general education classes so they can be with their peers.
When Helen Keller grew up, she graduated from college, became an author, and an advocate for people with disabilities. I hope to do the same.
My real message to you today is:
Teachers, never underestimate your students no matter how disabled they may appear or what difficulties they face.
Parents, believe in your children and encourage them to fulfill their dreams.
Students, give yourself the power to hear the voice inside telling you that you can create the life you dream of. Believe in yourself, and never allow anyone to discourage you.