C-Tran Program graduates celebrate, surrounded by family and friends

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Friends and family of C-Tran Program students gathered in the Leadership and Legacy Room at Lawrence school district offices Friday morning to celebrate the program’s five 2023 graduates. 

The Community Transition Program helps young adults ages 18-21 with vocational skills, independent living, transitioning from school to adult life and more. All five students who graduated Friday have real-world job experience and independent living skills. 

Caleb Saripalli, Ryan Eisele, Sky Wilkerson, X’Zavion Douglas and Matt McCoy all beamed as they received their diplomas. The five graduates were honored with a video from their fellow C-Tran students, who wished them luck and thanked them for their friendship over the years. 

Special education facilitator Jenna Viscomi welcomed everyone before giving the floor to Jennifer Burnes.

Burnes, the program’s transition specialist, explained the meaning behind the songs in the slideshow. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The ESC Leadership and Legacy Room was packed with people in support of the 2023 C-Tran graduates.

“Think of the song ‘Firework’ — each of you has a spark and a mindset of growth that’s embodied in that song,” Burnes said. “‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ by U2 — listen to that, and be reminded to embrace the joy and growth each day brings, even when things might be hard.”

The past few years came with their own set of struggles, prompting Burnes to make the slideshow’s intro song “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

Despite the ups and downs the graduates went through, they emerged victorious; appropriately, the slideshow concluded with “We are the Champions” by Queen. 

“I’m very proud of how hard these guys have worked this year,” Burnes said. “We were able to see them work in several of their work experiences, and they were very successful. I’m going to miss you guys a lot.” 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times “As I said yesterday at the Project SEARCH graduation, it’s a great day for a graduation — even if it is a bit rainy outside,” said special education facilitator Jenna Viscomi.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Jennifer Burnes, C-Tran’s transition specialist, directed the ceremony.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Caleb Saripalli and Burnes watch the video Saripalli’s classmates created for graduation day.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Matt McCoy joins Viscomi and Burnes at the front of the room, beaming as he holds his diploma.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Ryan Eisele grins as he watches clips of his classmates wishing him luck. Viscomi, who mentioned earlier in the ceremony that she might cry, starts to get teary-eyed.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Sky Wilkerson proudly receives his diploma.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Holding his diploma, X’Zavion Douglas poses for a photo with Burnes and Viscomi.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times C-Tran graduates (from left) Caleb Saripalli, X’Zavion Douglas, Ryan Eisele, Matt McCoy and Sky Wilkerson pose with their diplomas.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times C-Tran graduates (from left) Caleb Saripalli, X’Zavion Douglas, Ryan Eisele, Matt McCoy and Sky Wilkerson pose with their diplomas.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Ryan Eisele beams as his mother, Melissa Masoner, gives him a graduation card.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Sky Wilkerson’s grandmother, Debbie Rollins, embraces him.

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Note: A cutline in this post has been corrected.

Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.

You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.

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