Commencement speaker Jim Sinocchi, Managing Director of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co, and a member of The Viscardi Center’s Board of Directors, had a message to share with Viscardi’s graduating Class of 2018: “We all have a little bit of superhero in us.”
At the ceremony on June 21, he encouraged the 19 graduates of the Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center — a K-12 school that serves students with severe physical disabilities up to age 21— to look for ways to “pay it forward” and make the world a better place.
“Think about some of your experiences here at the Henry Viscardi School, and the teachers who made a difference in your life,” urged Sinocchi. “As you embark on your next journey, it’s your turn to look for ways you can help people; not just tomorrow, not just next week, but throughout your life.”
At age 25, Sinocchi was paralyzed from his chest to his toes after sustaining a spinal cord injury while bodysurfing. Adapting to his acquired disability, he continued working at IBM, where he built a 39-year career before starting his current role at JPMorgan Chase.
Like Sinocchi, graduates of the Henry Viscardi School have the tools to overcome obstacles, secure fulfilling jobs, and lead independent lives. Many are enrolled in higher education institutions such as Adelphi University, Manhattan College, New York University, SUNY Purchase, and local community colleges. Some will live in dorms, while several will commute to campus. Others are exploring employment opportunities and vocational/community programs.
Valedictorian Mya Forbes, one of four students this year to graduate with an Advanced Regents diploma, will study Studio Production at SUNY Purchase this fall. After completing her undergraduate degree, her goal is to establish a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting students with disabilities to careers in the arts.
Salutatorian Peri Finkelstein also plans to use her personal experiences to impact the disability community in a positive way. Set to major in Business and Marketing at Adelphi University this fall, she has also enrolled in the competitive Levermore Global Scholars program: an “innovative academic community dedicated to preparing students to become global thinkers and leaders in a changing world.” The program provides members with the opportunity to closely examine complex global issues like climate change, sustainability, poverty, and human rights.
Another top student, Tyrese Alleyne-Davis, will attend New York University to study communications and sociology, with dreams of becoming a lawyer specializing in disability rights. A vocal advocate for his alma mater, Tyrese joined staff and faculty in Albany this winter to talk with legislators about the significance of adapted learning environments at schools like the Henry Viscardi School In acknowledgement of his accomplishments in community service and youth empowerment this year, he was one of 19 individuals recently named to receive the “19th Senatorial District Power 19” Award.
Approaching the end of his remarks, Sinocchi reminded graduates that while having a disability comes with challenges, the future is theirs to create.
“You can accomplish anything you strive for, once you assess what you’re good at. Work hard, be realistic, be patient, and develop your personal values.”
About the Henry Viscardi School: The Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center is a New York State supported school that offers children with severe physical disabilities, who often require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day, a traditional educational setting option that provides rigorous academics and opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Its specialized, accessible educational setting provides a fully enriched academic program, a variety of therapies, assistive technology, and medical supports to students who may otherwise need to receive instruction in their homes or at a hospital.