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Taylor Leazott, left, and fellow graduate Emily Rose share a laugh Wednesday afternoon at the CREST School commencement excercises. This year the Citrus Resource for Exceptional Students in Transition graduated 15 students.

Some waved and giggled, some blew kisses.

Some stood solemn and still.

But all 15 members of the CREST class of 2019 were eager to turn their tassels as graduates at the graduation ceremony at the Citrus Resource for Exceptional Students in Transition in Lecanto on Wednesday.

Lynne Kirby, director of Exceptional Student Education at CREST, opened the ceremony with a charge to the graduates, a quote from Stephen Hawking: “My advice to other disabled people is: Concentrate on the things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well. Don’t regret the things it interferes with, and don’t be disabled in spirit.”

Next, as is tradition, each graduate was lauded for his or her strengths and accomplishments.

This year, the graduates’ teachers introduced their students.

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John Kan Vassallo-Orcutt proudly displays his diploma to family members Wednesday afternoon as he and 15 of his classmates graduate from the CREST School. Citrus County School Board member Ginger Bryant stands at right.

Tina Thomas introduced:

Dakota Rood, class valedictorian: He wrestled for four years on the varsity team at Lecanto High School, is a passionate poet and an avid historian. “Dakota will leave a chasm here at CREST, and we wish him well at college where he plans to enter the field of corrections officer,” Thomas said.

Kyle Kubecki: Artist, YouTube entrepreneur and a “walking anime encyclopedia,” Kyle also worked at the Citrus County Chronicle for work experience. Kyle will return to CREST for the Transition Academy.

Adam Hammersla: Avid gamer, shy and studious, a stickler for correct spelling and grammar, Adam wants a career in cybersecurity. “Adam is an absolute joy,” Thomas said. “His humor and intellect make any room he is in pure delight.”

Christopher “CJ” Greene: “Everybody at CREST knows Christopher,” Thomas said. “With a jubilant smile and a boisterous laugh ... he is notorious for his exuberance.” CJ finished his academic classes ahead of schedule in December.

Kim Porcelli introduced:

Sidney Sabal: “Sid the Kid from the Land of Did” is above all a dedicated hard worker, whether at school or at the Citrus County Chronicle training other CREST students working there. Next year he moves into the Transition Academy.

Jesse Espinoza: Only at CREST since January, Jesse fit right in and made his mark at the school’s Dolphin Deli, making sandwiches and pizza. “Jesse is a lot of fun ... likes telling jokes and laughing,” Porcelli said. “Overall, the best and most entertaining part of Jesse is his incredible dance moves.”

Austin Mugnolo: A student with a great work ethic, Austin has spent most of his six years at CREST working at the Dolphin Deli, the Chronicle and most recently, Crystal River Rehab. Austin puts 100% into whatever he does, and one of his greatest gifts is his ability to remember everything.

Brandon Morgan: Brandon came to CREST in 2008. He is a sweet student who loves Curious George, SpongeBob and music. While at CREST, he has worked in the Dolphin Deli and at the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch.

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Brightly colored balloons, flowers and other offerings were seen throughout the CREST School gymnasium as commencement exercises got underway Wednesday.

Julie Henry introduced:

Emily Roe: One of Emily’s favorite things is selling snacks at Lecanto High School from the snack wagon, using her communication device and her own voice to talk to people. “Emily’s smile and hard work will pay off for her in the future,” Henry said.

Taylor Leazott: Hardworking and social, Taylor loves to read and practice math skills. She excels at working the snack wagon and has perfected the art of “upselling” to increase sales. “Taylor is going to make an excellent addition to the Transition Academy and later as a chef,” Henry said.

Cody Frye: Cody loves to work, from the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch and the Chronicle to sweeping and cleaning desks and tables at CREST. “When asked to do any job, Cody eagerly complies,” Henry said. “When he finishes at the Transition Academy, Cody would like to work as a custodian. I know he will be a great one.”

Cherie Herald introduced:

John (Kane) Vassallo-Orcutt: Kane loves people. He is exuberant and lively and always smiling. This year he has begun volunteering at the Family Resource Center. Next year, he joins the Transition Academy.

Krystafer Baker: Full of questions, Krystafer loves science, archaeology, history, geology and music. He loves to dance, especially to Native American or country tunes. “Krystafer is an amazing young man,” Herald said.

Paul Heinze introduced:

Montana Pierson: Montana came to the CREST Transition Academy after already completing high school in New Hampshire. She entered the WTC Academy and has been job training at the YMCA, helping at the front desk, where staff has said her spunky personality makes her a true asset.

Jose Rivera: A Transition Academy member, Jose likes to help with recycling, pushing carts and helping staff with ice.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or

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