CHATHAM, NJ -- Brendan Ryan of Scotch Plains, Nicole Serkin of Cranford, and Marcello Matos of Kenilworth were among 30 students who graduated on June 14 from ECLC of New Jersey’s school for students with special needs in Chatham.

The young adults received high school diplomas conferred by their hometown districts. During the ceremony, each graduate was given an opportunity to speak and deliver their "reflections," a school tradition for many years.

Ryan said: “I have enjoyed going on respite trips, talking to my friends, dancing at the socials and going on trips to the mall and bowling alley.” 

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In his short speech, Matos said: “I have had so many good experiences at ECLC that have prepared me for life after graduation. I want to thank my family for all they do for me.” Serkin said how much she loved her family, art and gym classes. 

Ryan and Serkin, and a number of their classmates, will stay in the ECLC family by entering the P.R.I.D.E. Adult Program. P.R.I.D.E. is for ECLC alumni who are not good candidates for work because of the nature of their disability. More than 160 adults are enrolled in ECLC’s P.R.I.D.E. Centers in Florham Park and Paramus. Matos plans to pursue employment.

Adults in P.R.I.D.E. spend meaningful days continuing to learn and grow. The adults in P.R.I.D.E. choose their schedule, from a wide range of options, including fitness, computers, book club, food shopping and cooking, fine arts and more. They also venture out into the community each day for volunteering, field trips and other activities. The program is open to ECLC graduates of any age and for as long as needed.

ECLC stands for “Education, Careers & Lifelong Community” and serves more than 800 children and adults from 11 counties who are diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and multiple disabilities. The nonprofit operates two private schools in Chatham and Ho-Ho-Kus, educating nearly 300 students, and offers adult programs and services.

All ECLC students graduate with a clear plan for their future. For graduates who are able to work, ECLC offers employment services through an affiliate, Community Personnel Services (CPS). Specialists from CPS help graduates find meaningful jobs in their communities and provide ongoing support and advocacy in the workplace. ECLC enables people with disabilities to live as independently as possible. Learn more about ECLC.