Graduates gather under the Skirball roof to embark on a new path.
t was the big day for the Class of 2012 of Westmark
support of the Westmark community. At times giddy
twenty-four young men and women relished commence-
spoke from the heart about the academic and social
School of Encino. Side by side in Ahmanson Hall, the
ment in the true sense of the word—a time to begin
something new—but also a time to honor the past, look to
the future, and express love and gratitude to one another.
For more than half of the capped and gowned,
this wasn’t their first time marking a milestone in the same spot. For ten years, Westmark School has chosen
with excitement, at others more tearful, the graduates challenges they had faced and the triumph of finding affirmation in Westmark’s close-knit network of
faculty, administrators, counselors, coaches, parents, grandparents, siblings, tutors, significant others, and close pals.
“Through all my highs and lows, you guys have
the Skirball for both its middle school and high school
supported me unconditionally, and to me that is the
memorable teen rites of passage. In his welcome ad-
student Taylor Carty was confident that this would sus-
graduations, working closely with our staff to hold
dress, Westmark trustee Pat Terwilliger reminded the
class, “The last time I was in this room was four years ago when many of you were graduating from middle school.” Affectionately he added, “There were a lot more braces back then!”
definition of family,” remarked Blake Netel. Fellow
tain them well into the future: “I think we’ll be more
prepared for life because of how we have learned to
cooperate with each other and move forward together. The memories we created this year will infinitely unite us for the rest of our lives.”
coming together, coming of age Of course, a lot more had changed in their lives.
As many in the class publicly shared that afternoon, the last four years would be unforgettable precisely because they were spent at Westmark, a school dedicated to serving students with language-based learning
differences. There the students learned that anything is possible.
“It’s been a long and bumpy road arriving at
this dream,” declared Katie Jaworski, who led off the
student remarks that are the hallmark of Westmark commencement ceremonies, where no valedictorian
is named and every graduate is encouraged to speak. Fondly she recalled not only the good times, but also
the hardships that taught her so much. “I learned
hearted commencements hold particular resonance
she observed, and then gave thanks to her family,
honoring the unique personal journey of each and
more about myself than I could have ever imagined,” friends, and teachers.
With sunlight bathing the podium, speaker after
speaker followed in Katie’s footsteps, reflecting upon all that they had accomplished with the unwavering Sarah Hamilton
For the Skirball, Westmark’s distinctly open-
Left: Surrounded by a loving Westmark community, one graduate reminisces about the four years gone by and shares her dreams of the future. Above right: Randi Sommers and Jerry Sorrentino flank their son, Michael, with diploma in hand.
year after year. In bringing together loved ones and
every graduate, they are a fulfillment of the Skirball’s founding vision as a place where families and commu-
nities come together—and where the dignity of every individual is respected and cherished.