After sitting through a variety of development courses for seven years, 21-year-old Mark Mendoza got his chance to don a cap and gown and walk with fellow College View School students during Friday's completion ceremony.
Attending College View, a school for students with developmental disabilities, has helped Mendoza become more social and maintain composure, said his mother, Nilda Mendoza, said.
"When he was little he would cry a lot and he was very withdrawn, so he learned a lot in social adjustment," she said.
The variety of skills that Mendoza developed at the school allowed him to focus during the ceremony, Nilda Mendoza said.
"We are very proud," she said.
Mark Mendoza will continue to attend College View until December before moving on to an activities-based program.
Still, school administrators gave him the opportunity to walk with fellow four other students — Gor Pirumyan, Karl Crowder, Tyler Clemens and Daniel Lee — who earned certificates of achievement at the age 22.
The graduates worked closely with school staff on verbal and nonverbal communication skills, being self-reliant, thinking skills and socialization.
"College View is a place where miracles happen," said Glendale school board member Mary Boger.
She and other district administrators attended College View's ceremony, where school officials also honored retiring Supt. Michael Escalante.
The Activities for Retarded Children Chime Choir played "The Star Spangled Banner" for school officials, graduates and their families during the emotional ceremony.
After leaving College View, the graduates may seek employment, Principal Jay Schwartz said.
"They will also receive adult services that will help them further their independence," she said.
Seeing the graduates move on into their own lives was bittersweet for Schwartz.
"I got mixed emotions," she said.
"I am sad because I am going to miss them and I love them, but at the same time, I am proud that we have done everything that we can for them and are sending them off into the world as prepared as they can be."