FARMINGTON — As graduates at Mt. Blue High School lined up in the hallway prior to graduation Sunday, one student’s graduation cap stood out near the front of the line.

“Scatter sunshine all along your way!” it said.

The cap, belonging to student Leah Stinson, bopped up and down the hallway and in and out of the line of students, a bright yellow sun in a sea of blue.

It had been sewn to the back of Leah’s gown just minutes before by her mother, Siiri Stinson.

Leah, a special education student with a rare genetic disorder called Angleman Syndrome, has a dislike for wearing things on her head.

It’s hard to get her to sit still or stand in one place, but on Sunday she quietly took her place among the 137 graduates of the class of 2018.


Like other students, her graduation marks years of hard work and focus, but it’s also a crossroads for her family, which will now have to figure out how to best care for Leah and get her access to disability services without the help of the school district.

“Today I was just thinking, ‘Is she going to be OK?'” said Siiri Stinson, 41, of Wilton. “I wasn’t able to relax. But I totally cried all last week.”

As the graduates filed into the gymnasium, Leah was escorted by her education technician, Alison Woodcock. Her face lit up as she looked around at the crowd and heard the music playing.

Because of her genetic disorder, Leah is developmentally behind most of her peers. She’s largely nonverbal and cognitively between 6 and 18 months old.

She hasn’t hit the academic milestones of her peers, but because of her age – Leah is 20 – she will soon no longer qualify for an education through the school district.

Her parents are trying to get disability services for Leah so they can continue to get help caring for her and add to her quality of life through activities and opportunities to interact with people.


But for now, they’re not sure how long that will take or what it will look like. On Monday, Leah will return to school at Mt. Blue for summer classes, which she can take through the end of July.

“I think that’s when it will really feel like we’re moving on from this,” Siiri Stinson said. “I don’t know what will happen, but I’m hopeful.”

Woodcock, who sat beside Leah for the duration of the ceremony and escorted her to the stage, said she’ll be sad to see her leave school.

“She was fun to work with,” Woodcock said. “I don’t always get attached to students, but I was attached to Leah because she has such a great personality. She’s always happy. It made work fun.”

As the two walked up to the stage where students were receiving their diplomas, Leah tried to hug every member of the administration. Anyone who knows Leah knows she loves to give hugs.

Afterward, her family greeted her in the hallway and helped her out of her graduation gown. Her younger brother, Simon, carried a yellow carnation, a gift from Woodcock.

“She did good. She did really good,” Siiri Stinson said as she gave her daughter a hug. It was time to go home and celebrate.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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