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On Cancer: Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Young Adult Patients Celebrate Their High School Graduations at Seventh Annual Convocation

By Celia Gittelson  |  Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A standing ovation and the strains of the “Spring” concerto from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons greeted Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Class of 2013 — 30 young men and women, representatives of a total of 80 patients or former patients who earned their high school or high school equivalency diplomas this spring.

Welcoming the graduates, their families, friends, and Memorial Sloan Kettering clinical and support staff to the Department of Pediatric’s seventh annual Convocation, Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Craig B. Thompson observed, “You [the graduates] have distinguished yourselves in remarkable ways and have succeeded despite facing adversity that few people can imagine facing, much less overcoming.”

Two members of the Class of 2013 addressed the gathering.

“Memorial Sloan Kettering was a pivotal moment in my life, as I can imagine it was and is for many of my fellow graduates,” said Saul Tbeile, a graduate of Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York. “It is a unique bond we all share… . Today we stand here stronger and better equipped to take on any challenge that life throws at us, and we truly appreciate what it means to graduate. It’s a milestone that so many others take for granted. The road we have taken to reach this point has been long and hard but we did it!”

“The months I spent fighting cancer are the months when I — and many of us — learned what it really means to live,” said Alexandra Donchak Capellini, a graduate of Poly Prep Country Day School, also in Brooklyn. “Here [at Memorial Sloan Kettering] we learned that anything worth dreaming is worth doing. And despite fighting a battle for life, none of us ever stopped living.”

Also speaking at the Convocation ceremony was New York City schools chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “I have been to a lot of graduations in my life, but I can tell you no graduation tops this one,” he said. “I know all of you are going on to that next step in achieving dreams you never imagined… . We think the world of you.”

Chancellor Walcott then joined Mary Maher, principal of hospital schools for the New York City Department of Education; others from the New York City Department of Education; and Department of Pediatrics Chair Richard J. O’Reilly in presenting the graduates with Department of Education awards along with special Memorial Sloan Kettering certificates of achievement.

Memorial Hospital Physician-in-Chief José Baselga closed the program by congratulating the graduates and recognizing the staff of the Department of Pediatrics. “Our doctors, nurses, social workers, child life specialists, and teachers — you work so hard to make moments like this happen and we are so proud of what you do,” Dr. Baselga said.

Watch this WABC-TV story about Memorial Sloan Kettering's Pediatric Convocation.

Comments

I really enjoyed reading this inspiring story. I'm doing an honors thesis project on children and adolescents who were unable to attend traditional school (or used another type of education like hospital school or online school) because of chronic illness. I'm hoping to recruit current undergraduate students at who experienced a disruption in their middle or high school education due to illness to fill out surveys. Does anyone know any college students who might be interested in participating?

Jane, thank you for your comment. We have forwarded your question to a person in our Survivorship Program and someone will get back to you.

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