ConGRADulations, Eric!

by Jenn (eating bender) on May 25, 2012

Yesterday was an incredibly important milestone in my “little” brother’s life.

Eric is now a proud high school graduate! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that this is a big deal for both him and our family. The rules for special education vary by state, but in many cases special ed graduates find that because they haven’t taken or passed certain standardized tests, they do not receive an actual diploma.

Part of the reason my family moved to Arizona (from Minnesota) in the first place was so Eric could have an equal chance at earning what is rightfully his after 12 years of hard work. He attended a school for kids on the autism spectrum to receive the individualized education he needed to excel, and he has truly gone above and beyond. He still met all the “usual” student requirements, but just went about meeting them in a way that was best for his learning style. Through a lot of dedication and effort, Eric has grown into the intelligent achiever he is today. We couldn’t be prouder of him.

Not to mention the fact that he is SUCH a grown man. I mean, really – when did he get so old?

We arrived at his school early yesterday morning for the ceremony, which was so awesome. Since his school is pretty small, the graduation is also combined with the closing ceremonies for all grades K-12. You may recall Eric’s diski dance from 2010? This year’s ceremony featured fun videos and skits from all school levels – lower, middle and high – as well as FANTASTIC music performances. The music teachers have really put something incredible together, and each class rocked out. Eric’s band, Final Boss, did a cover of the song Birdhouse In Your Soul by They Might Be Giants.

My bro did an excellent job on his electric guitar. Did I mention the music program is awesome?

He was all smiles for the entire ceremony, which made it even more special.

Soon enough, the graduates left the room to put on their caps and gowns and make their grand entrance. Eric’s friend, Lee, was valedictorian. He gave a really good speech about the exciting future ahead for all five seniors.

And then, in the blink of an eye, my baby brother was officially done with high school!

I can’t express enough how proud of you we all are, Eric. I was one happy sister.

My great aunt Clare and mom’s cousins Patti and Kay were also there to celebrate. It meant a lot for them to come and show their support on Eric’s big day!

After the ceremony, Eric said his goodbyes to friends and teachers before we all headed to Brio Tuscan Grille for a celebratory lunch. Our waiter added this “gown” to a bottle of Parducci Merlot and jokingly asked Eric if he wanted a glass. A few more years… 😉

Of course, those of us over 21 were happy to help him out.

I went the soup and salad route, starting with a delicious Italian Wedding soup.

And ending with the Brio Chopped Salad, which consisted of chopped greens with tomatoes, olives, onions, cucumber, feta and red wine vinaigrette. It was fantastic!

More celebrating is in the works for the long weekend, including some red velvet cake! We wish Bobby could be here with us, but unfortunately he is in the final throes of studying for his last CFA exam. I know he’ll be overjoyed when those tests are over!

I imagine he will feel a lot like this…

ConGRADulations to Eric and all the Gateway seniors on their fantastic achievement. My brother will be attending community college this fall to pursue an associate’s degree in exercise science and earn his personal training certification. He has big dreams, and I know he will reach his goals.

The pictures tell it all. Do you see how buff that guy has become? He inspires me every day. :)

Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Any fun plans?


1 Lindsay @ Running the Windy City May 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Congrats to your brother, that is very exciting and it looks like you all celebrated well :)
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2 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Thank you, Lindsay! :)

3 Megan @ Megan's Munchies May 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm

This post makes me smile so much!! Congrats to your brother!!!
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4 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Aw, thank you, Megan!!

5 Shannon May 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

congrats eric :)
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6 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Thank you, Shannon!

7 Cara (Twinthusiast) May 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

So awesome. What a man!
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8 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Eric just opened your card and loved it – thank you so much! :)

9 Molly May 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I love this so much you have no idea. I am so happy for Eric, you and your family. Part of the reason I went back to school for education was because of my own brother. I don’t like the label “learning disability” or “disability” for any reason, mostly just because they are DIFFERENT doesn’t mean DISABLED. My brother is one of the smartest people I know, and also one of the most successful. Just because he doesn’t learn how everyone thinks he should, doesn’t mean that he can’t learn at all. It doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of achieving everything he deserves. One his own.
I also commend your parents for taking every step they can for making sure he is able to achieve greatness, on his own terms. It isn’t common these days for parents to do so, or even to ask for help where it might be needed. Being involved makes all the difference :)

Congrats Eric! You are going to go so far in life, I am sure of it!
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10 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I am so happy to read this, Molly! I love and agree with everything you said. Different does not mean disabled, and your brother sounds so awesome. I love that he inspired you to go back to school. My mom read your comment and smiled – thank you so, so much! :)

11 Megan (Braise The Roof) May 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Congrats to your brother! Looks like it was a really special celebration. :)
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12 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Thank you, Megan!

13 Karla May 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm

What an absolutely sweet post, Jenn! This makes my heart so happy. Congratulations, Eric!!
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14 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Aw, thank you, Karla!

15 BroccoliHut May 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm

What a fantastic accomplishment! I am so happy for Eric, and I wish him all the best in the future :)
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16 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Thank you so much, Caroline!

17 emily (a nutritionist eats) May 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

That is so wonderful, Congratulations to all of you!
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18 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thank you, Emily! :)

19 Irina @ Chocolatea Time May 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Congrats to your brother!! What an incredible achievement. He has so many opportunities ahead of him and I hope he gets everything he ever wants out of life.
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20 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words, Irina!

21 Erin May 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Jenn, if I wasn’t on so many meds 😉 this would have truly brought me to tears. Reading about, and really FEELING, your love for Eric over the years has been such a special experience. How blessed are you and your family to have each other. Arizona sounds like a great place to get educated for those whose needs are not as commonly addressed. I didn’t realize there was so much variance across states. What a beautiful family, and he is truly SUCH a handsome young man :) Would love to flirt with him a bit one day! All my love xo
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22 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Your comment made me smile so big. :) I read it to Eric in the car last night without saying specifically who it was from. A few minutes later, I kid you not: “So Jenn, the girl who said she wanted to flirt with me – what was her name?” You totally made his night, just so you know. 😉 Thank you for the sweet words!

23 Wendi May 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm

This post made my heart smile oh so much, hun! A huge congratulations to your brother! He has so much to be proud of! I hope you and your family have an amazing Memorial Day weekend miss Jenn :)
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24 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Thank you so much, Wendi! I hope you have an amazing Memorial Day weekend, too! :)

25 Erica May 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Just AWESOME! Congats again to your incredible brother! Again, your outfit is so so cute. This weekend, I’m teaching at the gym, we’re having friends over for dinner and???Enjoy your time in AZ
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26 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Thank you, Erica!! I hope you have a fabulous weekend – sounds like you have a lot of fun activities planned!

27 Susan May 26, 2012 at 9:57 am

Hooray, Eric! We’re sending lots of celebratory hugs your way! :)

28 Jenn (eating bender) May 26, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Thank you, Susan!! :)

29 glidingcalm May 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm

awww congrats to Eric!!!! And I am so happy to see a family supportive and loving to each member! Makes my heart warm!
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30 Pershy May 28, 2012 at 12:48 am

And I am so happy to see a family supportive and loving to each member! Thanks for sharing this inspiring blog with us.
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31 Mary @ Fit and Fed May 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Congrats to your ‘little’ brother, and props to your family for going above and beyond to get him a good education.
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