Longtime BOCES Student From Panama Graduates At Chautauqua Lake

Nicole Rauh smiles as the audience gives her a standing ovation as she walks offstage following her commencement ceremony. E2CCB teacher aide Kim Styers looks on.

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua Lake Central School District hosted a graduation ceremony for a very special student on June 7. Staff and students in the Special Education division of the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES at CLCS gathered in the auditorium to congratulate and bid a fond farewell to senior Nicole Rauh, 21, of Panama, who began at the school at age 5 and spent her entire educational career there.

E2CCB Supervisor of Instructional Programs Una Raimondo opened the ceremony with a warm welcome and noted that the whole school was in attendance — students in Kindergarten through 12th grade along with all faculty, related services and staff — to bid a fond adieu to Nicole.

“This is a special day for our entire school community,” she said, thanking the staff and administration who helped organize the event.

Peter Holl, Nicole’s classroom teacher, then noted that the Rauh family had about 20 members in the audience to celebrate her achievement.

“What a tribute,” Holl said. “Like many of you here today, I’ve watched Nicki grow up, and what an amazing journey that has been.”

A highlight of the ceremony was when Nicole, who usually relies on a wheelchair for mobility, was introduced and walked across the stage with the help of two instructors, to the surprise and delight of the audience, who cheered her on with encouraging words.

Crissy Rammelt, who worked with Nicole for a decade and was her one-on-one aide for the past six years, then reminisced about her journey and progress. She listed a slew of awards Nicole won, including Best Sensory, Most Huggable, Most Improved in Physical Education, Improvement in Communication and Most Improvement for Independence in Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. Last year, Nicole received an award from the 2016 InSights Art Competition through the American Printing House for the blind in Louisville, Ky., and had the chance of having her work hung in a gallery.

“For those of you who don’t know her, Nic is a spectacular little lady,” said Rammelt. “I pushed Nic time and time again and she has been successful no matter what I’ve asked her to do. I cannot tell you how very, very, very proud of her I am. Nic — I’m going to miss you next year, but I’m super, super proud of you, and I love you.”

Nicole was then presented with her diploma and a Certificate of Achievement for Gaining Independence. Afterward, she was embraced by her family and joined them in the audience to watch a sentimental slide show documenting her childhood, family life and education at CLCS.

Nicole returned to the stage to offer some parting words, thanking everyone for coming to enjoy her special day, before walking off stage to her wheelchair as the entire audience rose for a standing ovation. Afterward, everyone was welcome to enjoy refreshments and take snapshots with the sole Class of 2017 graduate of the Special Education program.

Also in attendance to congratulate Nicole were E2CCB Special Education Director Jen Saboda, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Danielle O’Connor, Board of Education member Thomas DeJoe as well as Panama Central School District Superintendent Bert Lictus and Principal Fran Frey.