Life
Special needs principal hands gym keys to stranger, hardly recognizes the place the next day
It's great how the community can come together to make a difference
Kalli Sarkin
06.22.17

Graduation is a day we all remember. It is a day that celebrates one of your hardest-earned accomplishments – finishing high school. For the students of this school for disabled children, graduation marked a particularly momentous occasion. You’ll never guess how the community came together to make this day extra special.

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For the students of John F. Miller, a special needs school located in Las Vegas, Nevada, graduation was a huge milestone. The school would hold the graduation/prom ceremony on campus in the multi-purpose room. The problem was that the school lacked the money they needed to truly make this ceremony memorable for the students, so the Fox5 Surprise Squad decided to step in and help out.

Monica Jackson from Fox surprised Jean Reynolds, the principal at John F. Miller, with an unexpected visit to her office. Principal Reynolds explained to Fox just how special these students were. “[Our students] all have multiple impairments: most of our students are in wheelchairs, we don’t have students that can talk, [but] they are absolutely the most wonderful students that you can find.”

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At the meeting, the two talked about what graduation meant to the students. “Not all of our students, unfortunately, live to see their own graduation day,” Principal Reynolds shared. “This is one of those huge life milestones that we’re all proud of them for.” For this principal, it was important to honor the graduating class in a way that showed the students how much they meant to the school. Monica had the perfect solution in mind; she asked Principal Reynolds for the keys to the multipurpose room, and set out to work. What she and the Fox5 Surprise Squad did next was unbelievable.

The team only had 7 hours to make a miracle happen. Each of them set out to make this ceremony an amazing experience for the graduates. “We just want to do our part and help make this day extra special,” Monica explained to Principal Reynolds. The squad kept their work confidential all the way up until the big unveiling. Each member of the team was excited to make a difference in these graduates’ lives. “When we heard that the graduation was going to be a few balloons and some refreshments, we knew that we had to step in and make this day something very special,” explained Todd Brown, the Fox5 General Manager and V. P.

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Their hard work definitely paid off. The John F. Miller graduating class was completely amazed when they saw their school multi-purpose room transformed into a grand celebration hall. The room was decked out with curtains all around, elegant flooring, gorgeous lighting, and delicious cupcake displays on shimmering green tables. The setting was complete with a red carpet leading into the celebration area. The students were overwhelmed with excitement – they couldn’t believe the community had put in all this work just for them. “I’ve never seen expressions on their faces like that!” shared one parent.

The graduation room transformation was not the only surprise in store for these graduates. The community even worked together to bring the students a live entertainment act! The performers of Cirque du Soleil were transported to the school in secret to give a private performance. The spectacle was something the students truly cherished. It meant a lot to them that so many members of their community would reach out to support them in celebrating such a wonderful accomplishment.

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The ceremony ended with yet another surprise. Several members of the Las Vegas community wanted to show their support to the students by providing the school with funding. America First Credit Union donated $5,000 to the school, and Albertans and Vons gave the same amount. United Nissan blew the audience away by not only donating $25,000 to the school but also providing John F. Miller with a partnership that would help them continue to get funding in the future. The community made a difference in the lives of this graduating class and many future generations of students.

It is heartwarming to see a community come together to celebrate something so special. The impact this event made on the lives of the students serves as an inspiration to anyone looking to make a difference around them.

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By Kalli Sarkin
hi@sbly.com
Kalli Sarkin is a contributing writer at Shareably. Kalli is based in Los Angeles and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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