It was two years ago this week that our Blog debuted. It was the Friday of the Graduation at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and the Saturday that I was delivering the commencement address at Kendall
College in Evanston. Last year, on this week, I was the commencement speaker at CHSAS,which was a great honor because of our long association with the school.

This year I was fortunate to attend as Melanie Givens, a CHSAS graduate 13 years ago, and today a sales professional for Eli Lilly & Co. as well as the President of the Louisville Urban League Young Professionals
delivered the commencement address. It was great to have a relatively recent CHSAS graduate share her experiences and passion for community service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Schulman, with CHSAS commencement speaker, Melanie Givens and CHSAS Principal, David Gilligan

The Student Address was given by valedictorian, Michelle Wesley, who has distinguished herself for her academic record and leadership as President of the CHSAS FFA Chapter as well as being named as a Semi-Finalist to
the Tribune All Acdemic Team. Michelle accomplished all this while being visually impaired and being considered legally blind. Suzanne LeMgnot of CBS2 Chicago highlighted Michelle’s achievements in the profile that follows:

Blind Student Achieves Highest Graduation HonorDespite Odds, Michelle Wesley Is 2006 Valedictorian

Suzanne Le Mignot
Reporting

(CBS) CHICAGO It takes intelligence, hard work and dedication to be valedictorian of your high school class. CBS 2′s Suzanne Le Mignot introduces us to a remarkable young woman who, against all odds, achieved that high honor.

Michelle Wesley looks like a typical teenager. Clad in jeans and a t-shirt, the 18-year-old fed farm animals on Friday as she prepared to graduate from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. The high school senior is school president and valedictorian.

She’s alsoblind.

Michelle credits her family for her success.

“There’s been days where I haven’t even been able to read my books and they would sit there and read the books for me,” said Wesley.

Despite suffering from an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and low blood pressure that causes fatigue, Wesley has beat tremendous odds to achieve a 4.2 grade point average. As a child, doctors diagnosed her with a disease that left her legally blind.

“Her future will be bright in what she plans on doing. She will not let an obstacle hold her back,” said her mother, Debbi Wesley.

Those who know Michelle in the classroom say she never lets her conditions stop her from learning.

“Never complains about anything that she has to do,” says teacher Lucille Shaw. “[She’s] always willing to put in, to go the extra mile of the way to accomplish her goals.”

Michelle wants to be a veterinarian. She says a disability should never stop someone from reaching their
goal.

“If their passion is with animal science, they should go into animal science, if they want to be a lawyer, they could be a lawyer,” says Michelle. “I think they just need that push.”

Michele will attend the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana this fall.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)