Jack Higgins, a Carmel High School student in New York, had graduation dreams come true with a little unconventional help from his classmates—who showed their support by respectfully staying silent as he crossed the stage to receive his diploma.
Higgins has a severe form of autism and is extra-sensitive to loud noises, after eight years in the school’s program for students with cognitive, learning, or behavior challenges, he was ready to graduate on June 20.
Lou Riolo, the school’s principal, asked the Class of 2019 and family and friends in attendance at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center to refrain from clapping.
“Unlike many of us, Jack is super sensitive to loud noises,” he said before Jack was introduced at the ceremony in June.
“I’m going to ask a big favor of everybody today. I would like everyone not to clap, and not cheer. That’s correct. Not clap and not cheer, because it may overstimulate Jack as he comes to the podium to receive his diploma.”
Students, faculty, and staff waved at Jack as he walked by, and the graduates stood up to give him a silent ovation as he walked across the stage flanked by his two brothers and one of his teachers with his fingers in his ears, but the loud noises he expected after weeks of practice runs with his teacher were nowhere to be heard.
“The students were amazing,” Riolo said, according to CNN.
“They are a class act and superseded expectations. For example them rising to their feet after Jack received his diploma was them. It was not preplanned and no one told them to act like that. They felt compelled to show their support in that way. They made that amazing compassionate gesture on their own.”
“An amazing thing took place at Carmel High School’s graduation,” Riolo said in a statement along with a video of the moment, calling the success “nothing short of a miracle.”