Northside Learning Center High School celebrates dozens of graduates with intellectual disabilities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It was a big day at Northside Learning Center High School, graduation day for 38 students.

"All of our students have intellectual disabilities from mild to the severe range, or they have autism," Assistant Principal Elizabeth Mourtokokis said.

The graduates have been at the Chicago Public Schools location for seven years, from age 14 and a half until they reach 22. They were honored with a drive-by celebration.

"They are a vivacious, fun, just wonderful group of young men and women and part of the overall mission of our school is to prepare them for adulthood," Mourtokokis said.

They spent part of their time learning in a classroom and the other portion working out in the community with 65 partner stores and organizations.

"It's not just purely academics; we go and translate that to real world opportunities for them," Mourtokokis said

The past 10 weeks have been especially challenging, with the emphasis on e-learning during the school shutdown.

"The parents would actually be helping the student hand-over-hand on the computer as well; so we didn't just have students, we had a family affair going when we were teaching," Teacher Carrie Annunzio said.

Mourtokokis said some of the students will go on to get competitive employment. One was hired at Amazon.

But for all of the students is the culmination of a dream and an emotional milestone for the staff.

"We think of them as our babies. Now they are going off into the world. They come to us as children and they leave as adults," Mourtokokis said.
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