May 24, 2013 0 Share

High Honors for Friendship

Author in cap and gown kneeling by Seton Hall insignia.
Photo courtesy of Kerry Magro

In May of 2011—19 years after I was first diagnosed with autism at age 4—I was on my way to receive my undergraduate degree from Seton Hall University. It was a day of many tears and hugs from family members, classmates, and friends. The road to my undergraduate degree had ended and now new beginnings were about to start. For me the new beginning would be pursuing a Master's Degree from my alma mater (in a somewhat ironic twist for a kid with autism) in Strategic Communications. 

Fast-forward to May 2013--two years, 11 classes and 36 credits later. Last Saturday was my hooding ceremony and I now have my Master’s degree. The program listed Kerry Magro and had a little asterisk next to my name signifying that I graduated with distinction, a high honor for me. 

When I was preparing for my undergraduate graduation I wrote a poem that I shared with Autism Speaks called This One’s For You. In the poem I discussed how blessed I was to have overcome so many obstacles to get to where I was at that moment. It was also a poem in which I shared with the world my satisfaction that I was able to prove wrong so many of the naysayers. Those individuals who told me I couldn’t and wouldn’t achieve in this world because of my disability. 

This time around I thought I would have the same type of feelings to write down but to my surprise they are completely different. 

One of the incidents that could explain these feelings happened at the hooding ceremony right before we received our diplomas. We were all standing outside of our gymnasium divided into different sections based on our specific degree programs. During that time we all had champagne and were able to reminisce before being asked into our school’s gymnasium for the proceedings to begin. Almost an hour before this occurred I was with my family who were diligently trying to get this small graduation hat to stay on my ginormous head. About 15 bobby pins later, when we thought we connected the hat on well enough, I met with my friends for the event. 

Then the hat started getting loose on our way into the gym. I was freaking out because no professors seemed to be there, and I was just looking around the place for an answer. Three of my classmates responded whose basic consensus was “Kerry—we got this” and helped lock that hat on so tight it wouldn’t have come off if I had decided to do cartwheels around the gym. 

That moment signified a lot to me in my overall social development. When I was a kid, I didn’t have that many friends who would have helped me in a situation like that. As much as I strived for good grades, I strived to get that social interaction I desperately wanted as a kid and finally had as an adult. 

It made my whole college experience start to round out for me. My undergraduate graduation made me reflect about being able to say I did something, and the graduate degree made me reflect on the friends I’ll have made for a lifetime. I truly did graduate with distinction. I have friends who would help me out, a high honor for me. 

These types of successes are dreams that I’ll always cherish and fuel my fire that I hope I can use to motivate myself to go out there and help others on the spectrum make their dreams come true. Everyone deserves to have a similar feeling to the one that I have now.