“Never give up on your dreams.”

Ka Dil was born in Thailand and at age 3, he suffered from meningitis, which caused him to lose his hearing. He and his parents moved to the U.S. in 2007, and the young boy, who didn’t know sign language, would eventually learn how once enrolled at the State School for the Deaf on Turin Street.

During his school days, Dil studied and worked hard, even preparing himself to become a U.S. citizen. Today he was one of five students to take part in the State School for the Deaf’s Class of 2019 commencement ceremony. During school, “I learned that I am brave,” said Dil in his senior words. “I will never give up. I will have more challenges in life. I will not give up.”

From dreams of becoming a professional photographer to working with computers and entering the working world, each student shared their goals and appreciation for the teachers, coaches, counselors and staff who helped them reach for the stars. The Class of 2019 is as follows: Abigail Anzalone, of Unadilla; Ka Dil, of Utica; Alen Kendic, of Rome; Yousef Sawaqed, of Poughkeepsie; and Roseanna Wright, of Verona.

Today’s ceremony began with the processional, which was accompanied by a performance of “Pomp and Circumstance” by the NYSSD Bell Choir, followed by “The Star Spangled Banner.” Superintendent Joyce Long welcomed parents, students and dignitaries in attendance, followed by words from State Regent Beverly L. Ouderkirk.

Kendic said he hoped to “pay the debt of gratitude forward” now that he’s ready to start his next chapter, thanking all those who have supported him and helped him succeed.

“As you can see, behind each graduate, there must have been at least a dozen people providing support in at least a dozen ways,” he said. “The best way we graduates can show our gratitude is to make the most of the opportunity we’ve been given, and go forward into the world with the intention of making it a better place for the generations that follow us.”

Sawaqed shared how he was just 4-years-old when he moved to the U.S. from Jordan, and how he grew from a shy and scared little boy who didn’t know American Sign Language or English. He said one of his favorite memories is when he was taught a new sign for his name, a “Y” near his heart, which he still uses today.

“I want to say thank you so much to my family, staff and teachers who have taught me and supported me,” Sawaqed said. “I will never forget how much it has meant to me.”

Anzalone said she will always be grateful for her time at NYSSD because that’s where she discovered her passion for photography by taking a class in advanced graphic design. She too said there will be challenges in the future, but that NYSSD has prepared her with courage and strength.

“I have challenges,” Anzalone said. “When I was younger and in public school, one challenge was it was hard to communicate with my hearing friends. In the future I want to become a photographer. It will, again, be a challenge to communicate. I will write with people…I learned I am a strong girl because I figure out challenges.”

Wright shared a sentiment of all students, that they will miss their NYSSD “family,” and hope to come back to visit everyone.

“In my future, I want to explore the country and maybe move out west,” she said. “I like traveling, so I might see if I like to be in different states. When I leave, I will never forget NYSSD.”