The audience applauds as the eighth graders who are moving up proceed down the aisle.Elizabeth Ayala Sambolin couldn’t help but get emotional as she watched Salt Point Center’s Eighth Grade Moving Up Day Ceremony Thursday.She thought back to what her son, Daniel Sambolin, was like when he first stepped into the school as an 8-year-old with autism. Thursday, she watched him wear a graduate’s cap and gown.
“This school has been amazing,” she said afterward, tears instantly returning to her eyes. “They worked with him and he’s a totally different young man. I will be forever grateful for every single (staff member). They do work others don’t understand.”
Daniel Sambolin was among 22 Salt Point Center students who will be taking the next step in their education next year. Some will be joining the Dutchess BOCES Resilience Academy in the fall, while others will be returning to their home school districts or joining alternative programs. For all, Thursday was a chance for family and staff to celebrate their accomplishments.
Salt Point Center Principal Melissa Murphy reflected on how close staff grows with students over their years in the building, as well as how families become teammates with the staff in aiding each student with their individual needs.“The families that are here really understand – they’ve worked just as hard as everybody in this building has in order to help these kids get to today,” she said. “Some of the staff has been with them for so long. They’re very connected to them as families and very connected to them as people.
”The ceremony in Salt Point Center’s gymnasium featured not only the students moving on, but also performances from younger students.
Among those graduating from the school, Quinlan O’Neil, Mason Cruz and Kyle Mills recited poems – “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur, “Touching the Sky” by Shreya D. Chattree and “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, respectively – and Joel Griffiths performed a piano piece, “You Are the Reason” by Calum Scott. A group of younger students sang “One Small Voice,” which incorporated sign language, and another group performed a dance titled “To Build a Home.”
Skyler Kelly-Palmer was given the TEG Financial Award for Outstanding Achievement and five students, Anthony Talbot, Griffiths, O’Neil, Cruz and Sambolin, were highlighted as having been named Students of Distinction and Rotary Students of the Month this academic year.
Elizabeth Alaya Sambolin hugs Daniel Sambolin after receiving flowers from him.Angelo Mastandrea receives his certificateDaniel Gonzalez Jr. presents a flower to Daniel Gonzalez Sr. as a token of his appreciation.

Midway through the ceremony, each eighth-grader was given a flower and instructed to give it to someone who helped them reach moving up day. Many, like Daniel Gonzalez Jr., gave it to a parent.
The ceremony “meant everything,” said Daniel Gonzalez Sr. “It’s a stepping up for my son. He’s come a long way, from where he was. I worked hard with him. The school’s worked hard with him. It’s just a beautiful thing for years to come.”
Martina Mills said he was proud of the work his son, Kyle, put into getting to moving up day.
“My son’s come a long way,” he said.
Kyle Mills said making friends was a highlight of his four years at Salt Point Center. He hopes to do the same when he starts high school in the fall.
“And when I’m in college, probably make some new friends,” he said.
In addressing the students, BOCES Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jodi DeLucia called the day “an important moment in your journey.” She said the ceremony is “not just a celebration of your academic achievements, it’s a recognition of your growth. … It’s a recognition of your resilience.”
Ayala Sambolin said the school bolsters that resilience by making sure “these kids feel included in every which way.”
She said her son “can accomplish anything he wants in life, and this school has made sure that every kid knows that.”
Murphy said she hopes the celebration helps spur her students on future success.
“You give them the carrot and the feeling that they had today hoping that it gets them to the next milestone,” she said.

Skyler Kelly-Palmer hugs Principal Melissa Murphy as she hands him his certificate.Kyle Mills reads "Still I Rise," a poem by Maya Angelou during the ceremony.Quinlan O'Neil reads  "The Rose That Grew From Concrete," by Tupac Shakur.