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Mom applauds Lawrence grads for treatment of special-needs son

From left, Chris Shakespeare, 47, Matthew Shakespeare, 16,

From left, Chris Shakespeare, 47, Matthew Shakespeare, 16, Christian Shakespeare, 18, and Kim Shakespeare, 46, after the Lawrence High School graduation held at the Tilles Center at LIU Post. (June 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Quinn O'Callaghan

Arielle Chapin put things in perspective.

When the Lawrence High School valedictorian addressed the class during a graduation ceremony at LIU Post’s Tilles Center Monday evening, she discussed things that most graduates are feeling: excitement for the summer, anxiousness over their first year in college, the frightening concept of having their first apartment away from home.

Chapin asked them to remain calm, and to simply appreciate being alive.

“Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life,” she said, quoting Persian philosopher Omar Khayyám.

Earlier in the ceremony, district superintendent Gary Schall spoke highly of the 244-member Class of 2013 when he addressed the crowd. Citing the hardships that the class has grown up through, including 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the financial crisis of 2008, Schall told the class that they were stronger for what they had been through and were destined to be a special group.

“You are on the verge of being the next great generation,” he said.

As far as Kim Shakespeare is concerned, the Class of 2013 has already achieved greatness.

Her son Christian, 18, has Williams syndrome, a condition that causes developmental delays. She was advised to put Christian on an educational track which would have had him graduate from high school at age 21.

She and her husband, Charles, 47, refused and kept Christian on a normal graduation track. But they worried about how the students of Lawrence would treat her son. Her apprehension was dispelled, though, when she saw how accepting the students were toward Christian.

“They were just amazing,” said Kim Shakespeare, 46. “Extraordinary. They gave him an extraordinary year. They treated him like an ordinary student, which was all we wanted.”

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