When a GCC grad walked across the stage to get her degree, it inspired the whole school
As Genesee Community College's 50th graduating class crammed for finals, one student worked harder, practiced longer, collaborated more, and without realizing it she embodied the College's "Beyond Expectations" brand with quiet dignity and integrity seldom seen.
Lifelong Bergen resident, Lauren E. Stumpf was born in 1994 with cerebral palsy, and has relied on a wheelchair for mobility for most of her life. But this challenge never much slowed Lauren down, nor dampened her spirited disposition.
With hard work and dedication, she has enjoyed great success. She graduated from Byron-Bergen Schools in 2012 and months later enrolled at GCC with plans to earn a degree in Human Services.
Lauren's determination has always been a mark of her character and integrity, first by proving her doctors wrong by far exceeding their projected life expectancy of just five years. Then at GCC she excelled in her coursework and quickly made friends across campus.
Several months before graduation, Lauren decided she wanted to make the ceremony even more special by surprising her family and friends with another significant accomplishment -- walking across the Commencement stage to accept her degree.
To that end, Lauren began doing exercises to strengthen her muscles, and she contacted her friends who were enrolled in GCC's Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program. Together, with guidance from their professors, they helped Lauren by monitoring her progress, educating her about proper posture and exertion levels to ensure she rested appropriately and did not injure herself.
As Lauren proudly walked across the stage, the crowd cheered, applauded and many people jumped to their feet with enthusiasm and support. She shook hands with keynote speaker Kristina Johnson, Ed.D., the new SUNY Chancellor, whose speech included a message about optimism and rising to her own challenge of being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Lauren's determination inspired the GCC's admissions office to capture her story in a short video that would illustrate her resolve. It also will inspire others to meet their challenges head-on and realize the many resources available to help make their dreams a reality.
Lauren's story is proof that good news travels fast and far. After posting Lauren's story on the College's social media channels, there were more than 4,500 views in just one week. This included a message from Buffalo State College who is looking forward to having her on their campus this fall, as she begins her next challenge.
Lauren will be enrolled in Buffalo State's Special Education program, in part, as a tribute to her close friend who also enrolled in the program but sadly passed away before she graduated.
"After Buffalo State, I want to get a job as a special education teacher and possibly go back to GCC as a professor for the Developmental Disabilities class," Lauren said.
And to that GCC remarks, "Bring it on! We can't wait to see you."
Photo by Howard Owens.
This story is so inspiring! To anyone who doubts the tenacity of "kids these days..." this just goes to show you that our newest generation of young adults has produced some motivated, hard working individuals who will do great things with their lives and for our society. Not only did this amazing young woman work hard to achieve a seemingly impossible goal, but she did so with the help of her classmates...they all stepped up and worked as a team, supporting each other along the way. How great is that?