Lexi’s profound impact at Latham

Reflections by Katrina Fryklund

I’d like to share my sincere thanks to our most recent graduate, Lexi. She has had a profound impact on many of us here at Latham.

On January 30th, with snow falling in abundance outside the window, staff, family and friends watched Lexi graduate. During her six-year tenure at Latham Centers, she has had an incredible impact on staff and students alike. Lexi was the first student I met at Latham. During my orientation in 2013, she proudly walked into our group of 15 new employees and welcomed us to this community. I knew if even half the students were like Lexi, then I was working at the right place. I will miss her, as will so many others.

At Lexi’s graduation, Ben D., Behavior Specialist in the Children’s Program, spoke about his experience with her. When his speech concluded, there was hardly a dry eye in the house, mine included. Ben’s words follow:

“When I met Lexi six years ago, I was greeted as most were during that time. I walked into the old West Wing where Lexi was happily working on a painting, as she often did, extended my hand cheerfully, and said, “Hi, I’m Ben. It’s nice to meet you.” Lexi looked up with what can only be described as a look of discontent, and bluntly told me, “I don’t know you. I don’t like new staff. Don’t talk to me.” She then casually returned to her painting.

It took many months before Lexi would interact with me again, but then something happened, I became Lexi’s ADL. I recall the announcement being made, and me being sure of a less than thrilled response from Lexi. But I was surprised. Lexi actually jumped out of her seat and cheered at the knowledge that I would be working with her.

What I’d come to find is one of the most giving, caring, and toughest kids I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Lexi redefined, for me, what it meant to support your peers here at Latham. If a friend of hers was ever having a tough time, she would be first on the scene, offering her sincere support. Lexi did—and has always tried—to include everyone she possibly can in whatever activity she could come up with. She does this not for herself, but because making others feel happy and included is what makes her most proud in this world. And she’s good at it, too.

Lexi also loves to give. I have never seen anyone work so hard on, and give so many works of art to staff and students alike. Her creativity is unmatched and I can’t tell you how many times pieces like this, which hangs in my house, have brightened my day.”

Ben then took out a large and colorful painting from behind the podium. Lexi exclaimed cheerfully, “You still have that!” Ben continued:

“Another side of Lexi which can’t go unnoticed is her intense resilience and toughness. A story that I think best sums this up comes from a Special Olympics flag football game four years ago. During this game, Lexi was thrown a ball that was off target. Lexi zoned in, jumped backwards through the air, and made one of the most spectacular catches in Latham Hawks history. She then slammed to the ground with enough force to knock the ball loose from most NFL receivers. The hit had knocked the wind out of Lexi and in my concern, I called a halt to the play and approached her to make sure she was okay. Lexi looked up at me in frustration and said, “Why did you tell them to stop?! I could have gotten a touchdown.”

All in all, I’ve learned over the years that the Lexi I met on the first day of Latham was merely a defensive shell of the incredible person underneath. Over time, this shell has peeled away and the true Lexi is now exposed to the world.

Lexi: I know that wherever you go, you will bring your kind and caring spirit with you. I’ve considered it an honor to watch you grow over the past six years and I will never forget the lessons you have taught me. I would like to leave you with this one last piece of advice. Never forget how strong you are. And if life knocks you down, know that you will always be ready to get up and score the next touchdown. I wish you luck, and I know that you will do great.”

Thank you to Ben, Lexi, and everyone else who participated in her heartfelt graduation. Here’s to you, Lexi!

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