PWCs Who Struggle Through High
School Deserve Their Reward
By June Foran
Originally published in The CFIDS
Chronicle, Fall '97
Enfield (Conn.) High School senior AnnMarie
Reveruzzi, 18, sat in the audience on graduation day feeling cheated and
She was a credit and a half shy of
needed to receive a diploma. She was not allowed to be part of commencement
exercises. She wasn't even given an honorable mention. School officials cited
"standards" as the reason.
AnnMarie is no slacker; she didn't
school, carry weapons or flunk out. AnnMarie is a student with a disability.
Since she was 12, she has suffered from chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction
syndrome (CFIDS). Her one goal was to graduate with the class of 1997, and she
struggled to reach it. Sick as she was, she studied through summers and
vacations. She memorized facts through brain fog and read chapters despite
headaches. She maintained a B average.
AnnMarie wasn't asking for something
didn't earn. She simply wanted to wear a cap and gown and march with her class.
She could have been handed a blank diploma, then completed the remaining credits
in a few weeks of summer school.
Yet with the stroke of a pen, school
officials ruled out the opportunity to recognize a deserving student's
accomplishments. Further, the community was deprived of a chance to acknowledge
AnnMarie's struggles and to celebrate her achievements.
Two nearby school systems, however,
in a spirit of inclusion.
One is E.O. Smith High School in Storrs,
Conn., where 18-year-old Raechel Stalnaker is a "foster parent" to Kiwi, a
14-month-old black German shepherd who will someday assist a blind person as a
Fidelco guide dog. As part of her training, Kiwi attended school with Raechel.
Most days, Kiwi kept tight at Raechel's side or lay quietly under her desk. The
dog's good behavior was a testament to Raechel's patience and
Kiwi soon became a real part of the
Smith community. At the end of the year, school officials rewarded Kiwi's and
Rachel's hard work. The dog was given an honorary diploma.
The irony of a dog getting recognition
a few towns over a young woman was denied such honors speaks for itself. Even
so, had I been there I would have stood and cheered for Kiwi and
That's just what I did when my daughter
Katie received an honorable mention at her class graduation in Tolland,
Katie is now recovering from CFIDS.
too, remained connected to her high school, yet studied mostly at home. Unlike
AnnMarie, Katie was welcomed at her ceremony even though she didn't complete
enough credits to graduate.
At graduation, Katie was called on
and was given a certificate. For a moment, she faced her classmates who stood
and applauded her. She was too moved to speak.
It was her moment. The school and the
community acknowledged her accomplishments. Moreover, she participated in the
only rite of passage our society provides young people about to make their way
in the world.
Like the graduates, she got hugged
kissed. She took pictures with her friends. She received bouquets.
The community cried along with her.
tutor, teachers, guidance counselor, her family and friends - all those who
walked the long road with her - got to share in the moment because it was their
struggle and their triumph, too.
AnnMarie could have had her moment.
could have been allowed to march with her classmates. She could have been given
a simple honorable mention.
Her parents, Mike and Linda Reveruzzi,
are as informed and supportive as parents can be, fought a last minute battle to
have her included. They had her doctors, political representatives and The CFIDS
Association of America write letters on her behalf. The Reveruzzis were told to
"call off the hounds" because the superintendent had made his
If there is a lesson here for parents,
is to deal with any "what ifs" early on in a planning and placement team meeting
(or the appropriate equivalent in your state). Unfortunately, with some school
systems, you have to get it all in writing.
Enfield school officials missed an opportunity
the right thing. Like vapor on a brilliant June afternoon, AnnMarie Reveruzzi's
chance to be part of commencement exercises - like so many of her other high
school experiences - disappeared forever.
note: Both Katie Foran and AnnMarie Reveruzzi are continuing their educations.
Katie, who earned her GED with honors in July, is taking classes at Manchester
(Conn.) Community Technical College toward her goal of earning a bachelor's
degree in American history. AnnMarie, who received her high school diploma this
summer, is attending Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Conn., and is
working toward a bachelor's degree in business. We wish them both the best as
they plan their futures.