Ready for the world

ALPENA – Pied Piper Opportunity Center’s class of 2013 graduated Friday.

The school gym was packed with family and friends to honor Michael Brandenburg, Nicole Leaym, Chris Maurer, Krystle Moloney, Sharley Pelton, Lyndsey Sharboneau and Shannon Stilwell. Before the ceremony began, the audience got to watch a video featuring photos of each graduate from their childhood and time at the school.

Principal Mary Zann started by telling the audience what she’ll remember about each graduate. She introduced each one as they walked down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Susan Grulke, Alcona Montmorency Alpena Educational Services District director of special education, said Friday’s graduates weren’t the only ones who learned during their time at Pied Piper.

“We have learned so much from each of you, and I want to say today how proud I am, and how grateful I am for what each of you have given and taught to all of us,” she said. “Everything we have learned from you will help the future students who find themselves in our classrooms and our school.”

Brian Wilmot, AMA-ESD superintendent, said Friday was a day of celebration, reflection and appreciation: celebrating the seven students’ accomplishments and progress, reflecting on what the students’ time at the school meant for them and their teachers, and appreciating what everyone gained in that time.

“It’s my belief that those of us that have had the privilege to work with our Pied Piper students are truly blessed, that we have gained as much as we’ve given,” he said. “As we look forward, we take comfort in knowing that while our students’ time at Pied Piper is coming to an end, they’re better prepared for their future because of their time here, and the hard work they and the staff at Pied Piper have done.”

Then, each teacher assigned to one or more of the seven grads talked about all the students had accomplished in their time at Pied Piper, and the memories each one will leave behind. They also gave each student their certificates.

Everyone knows Pelton, Jeff Ashley said, and occasionally teachers had to check if she made her bus on time.

“She will take time to say hello to each and every student and staff,” he said. “What a wonderful thing to be such a social and caring person.”

Maurer will be remembered at the school for his sense of humor, Ashley said. He also loves a good story, and is very active in his community.

Sharboneau made strides during her time at Pied Piper, LeeAnn LaRue said. She developed her skills as an artist, and worked in several places through the school’s job training program.

“Lyndsey, you have grown and matured into a fine young lady, and we are all proud to have a role in helping you achieve who you are today,” she said.

Brandenburg learned a great deal of work skills at Pied Piper, LaRue said, adding he’s also worked at many places through the job training program. He still loves to talk about cars, trucks, boats and other machines.

LaRue grew emotional while telling the audience about the bright future Leaym has in store, adding she’ll miss her helper.

“You have grown into such a beautiful and caring person that I know you will be fine,” she said.

While Moloney was apprehensive at first, she and Brett Burke developed a great relationship over time. She went on to become one of the best workers he’s worked with.

Stilwell has a very animated personality, and she’s never been afraid to tell teachers if she thinks an activity is exciting or boring, Sue Srebnik said.

“This year, I got to experience that first-hand, and I’m thankful to say that there weren’t nearly as many boring activities as there were exciting ones,” she said.

Zann concluded by congratulating the new graduates, and inviting all of them to visit in the future.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at