Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Maria Ellis had a fantastic senior year. With her mom, Margie’s assistance at home, virtual learning was a successful learning experience. “Miss Staci Forrest (Marie’s teacher), was so creative and made the lessons fun and engaging for the students and their parents. In science class, the students and parents were presented with a weekly challenge and we got very competitive (in a fun way),” said Margie.
One of the highlights of the past year was when Maria was voted the senior class Secretary. She enjoyed participating in the senior class activities with her classmates including the senior luau and prom. Her dad, Bill, accompanied Maria to the prom and it was clear what a special evening it was for father and daughter.
The Class of 2021 graduation ceremony was bittersweet for the Ellis family. Of course they were thrilled to see their daughter, Maria, graduate with her classmates, but it was hard to say goodbye to the staff at The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) who have been a part of their lives for the past 20 years.
When Maria was a year old, she began receiving early intervention services through MSB’s Infant and Toddler program and started attending the Pre-K program on campus at the age of three. She is now 21 years old.
Maria’s older brother, Christopher, was also a student at MSB and the family has worked with many of the same education and therapy staff for two decades. In fact, at one time, both siblings were even in the same class together.
“This school and the staff have been a big part of our family for so long, I can’t imagine what it is going to be like not to go to MSB every day,” said Margie.
Maria and Christopher both have multiple disabilities and are non-verbal in addition to having low-vision. MSB specializes in serving blind/low-vision students with multiple disabilities and has an entire program dedicated to this student population, as well as those on the autism spectrum.
Each student has an entire team of professionals (vision specialists, educators, therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, medical and residential staff) that work together to help them reach their fullest potential. And for every student at MSB, success looks different.
Maria, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility, recently had a breakthrough during an occupational therapy session. She was able to feed herself with a spoon for the first time. “It was a huge accomplishment for her, our family and her MSB team,” according to Margie.
Maria has participated in a variety of activities at MSB over the years; opportunities that she would not have been afforded had she attended a public school. Some of her fondest memories include therapeutic horseback riding, field days on campus and countless class trips. Margie was always on hand to capture the memories with her camera.
“I will always be grateful to MSB for providing our children with the best educational setting to suit their unique learning needs. We will miss everyone so much as so many of the staff have become and extended family to us.”