Her daughter Rachel joined three other 21-year-old St. Mary's students in
celebrating their completion of the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Program's REACH program whose teachers educate students with disabilities living in residential facilities.
The annual ceremony with its heartfelt speeches, music, tributes to graduates and celebratory lunch marked the end of the students' formal education at St. Mary's, which cares for infants and children with severe disabilities. All the graduates can stay at St. Mary's through their 21st year.
"Rachel has inspired me with her milestones -- picking up a spoon, smiling, flipping a switch and mostly her unconditional love, tolerance and engaging social skills," Eileen Scherzinger told the audience when she spoke at graduation as a parent representative.
She praised her daughter's excellent teachers and the caring St. Mary's staff for helping Rachel blossom during her nine years at the Norfolk home.
The Scherzinger family, which lives in Vienna, hopes Rachel will be among the first residents of St. Mary's new Albero House for adults now under construction right next to St. Mary's. It will open in October to provide private rooms, nursing care and activities for 12 adults with severe physical disabilities.
A $200,000 grant from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation is helping build the new St. Mary's adult home. In 2003 a $400,000 community foundation grant helped construct St. Mary's current home for children who are infants through age 21.
"We were worried about the next step," Bruce Scherzinger, Rachel's dad, says of his daughter aging out of St. Mary's. "Now we hope Rachel will be living in Albero House. There is nothing else like this in Virginia."