Rise School of Tuscaloosa celebrates big achievements at graduat - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Rise School of Tuscaloosa celebrates big achievements at graduation

Mandy runs to get a hug from a Rise School staff member. Source: WBRC video Mandy runs to get a hug from a Rise School staff member. Source: WBRC video
Mandy's mother, Ute Jocham. Source: WBRC video Mandy's mother, Ute Jocham. Source: WBRC video
TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) -

Graduation is always a special day for students. But for one little girl in Tuscaloosa, it's proof of how much she's overcome and achieved in her life.

Just watching her daughter Mandy go through graduation rehearsal at the Rise School of Tuscaloosa brought Ute Jocham tears.

"I had tears in my eyes. It is so thrilling because six years ago when she started here as a baby and now she's graduating," Jocham said.

Mandy was born with a heart defect and Down syndrome. Soon after birth, family friends recommended that Mandy enroll in the Rise School.

"Instead of crying she told us she want more to eat and helped a lot of with frustration. So I think it started with sign language and at home we speak German," Jocham said.

Mandy now fluent in sign language, English and German.

Dawn Sandel, Mandy's music therapist at Rise, helped her overcome problems with speech and motor skills.

"Mandy always struggled and kind of challenged her mom in many ways. One of the things I suggested to Ute was to sing a song and Ute kind of nurture her, "This is the way we put on our pants, put on our pants.' Something as simple as that. But it really nurtured Mandy to follow directions," Sandel said.

On Thursday, Mandy and dozens of her classmates at Rise will graduate and prepare to enter public and private schools in the fall.

"The goal now is to read and write and simply live an independent life and simply we want her to be happy and she is a happy girl," Sandel said.

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