CRESTVIEW — Richbourg E.S.E. School's two newest alumni are more like family, administrators said.
That word figured prominently in speakers' comments Friday, when Andrew Babbitt and Grace Stockton graduated from the exceptional student education school.
“We have done our best to guide them and nurture them,” Principal Nicole Rickmon said. “Truly we are a family here, and they have been in the family for a long time.
"They will still be in our hearts after they graduate.”
Guy Stockton credited Richbourg's caring faculty and staff for helping his daughter face challenges.
“She’s really sprouted here,” he said. “Whenever there’s a big change for her, we’re always afraid she’ll respond the wrong way, but then she surprises us thanks to her time here.”
Grace was the four-year-old school’s first student to be placed in on-the-job training, working in the kitchen and helping in the dining room at Uncle Bill’s Family Restaurant.
Sheila Kurpil, an Uncle Bill’s waitress, presented Grace with a balloon bouquet and gift card from the restaurant’s staff.
Though he may not speak much, hugs are Andrew’s specialty, Okaloosa School Board member Cathy Thigpen said.
He hugged Thigpen, Rickmon, school Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson and assistant superintendent Nick Koutsouradis after receiving his diploma.
The embraces are memorable, Thigpen said.
“You don’t forget it once you’ve been hugged by Andrew," she said.