LKS Alumni speaks at Transitioning Ceremony

by / Monday, 08 June 2015 / Published in News

unfried_david-speech-pic-1-150x150Each year in June we welcome back a former student to speak at our Transition Ceremony. This year we were touched by the  speech David Unfried gave to the students, staff and parents of LKS on June 5, 2015.

{Speech below}   {Video}

Good afternoon and congratulations to all the students that are graduating from this amazing institution today. If my past is any indicator for the present I know that all of the students, staff, and parents have been working tirelessly throughout this past year so I extend my congratulations not only to the students graduating this evening but to everybody else in this room. To be honest I don’t remember much of this day because I was much more focused on what was for lunch. It appears some things do not change. In my time here nearly a decade ago I can’t really recall what the speaker said, but it is my belief that he echoed a lot of the similar aspects that I will be talking about today. Although I know I’m setting my expectation incredibly high, I hope that when you leave here today you will remember something other than food.

I want to give a short back story about what led me to come to LKS and my experience while I was here. Before attending LKS in 2004 my life was an unbelievable struggle for myself and for those that I love. Around the age of seven or eight I was officially diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. I used to throw fits when I didn’t get what I wanted, and behave in unimaginable ways from who I am today. As a result of this my parents made the brave decision to send me here to the Little Keswick School.

I spent two years here at LKS. Mind you that the campus was quite different when I was here, although many things have changed on the exterior the program has really remained similar to when I left. I spent time in all three dormitories completing my second and final year at the yellow house. I don’t want to go into too much specifics about my time at LKS because that’s what’s happening right now with all of you, what I want to discuss more is how that affected me in the creation of who I am today. This institution is not a cure-all, it does not provide solutions to fixing a problem overnight, but instead it is an investment in something that provides a strong foundation to work off of as you grow older. One of the phrases that I’m sure you’re familiar with, as it is something that is chanted from the rooftops here, is the idea of the tool box or tools that LKS provides you. I can promise every one of you that I would not be who I am today without the tools that I was provided.

In my time here I gained the experience to think before I act, to comprehend and express my feelings in a positive manner, and to understand and cooperate with those around me. These are some of the tools that I received, but I do not want to give the impression that your tool box is full. For now you have the materials and tools, next you must build the structure, build your lives, and build your future. For me personally this is how I was successful and how I imagine many of you will be as well.

After graduating my family moved across Texas to enroll me in a high school that focused on students with learning disabilities. At this high school I had the resources to continue the construction of who I am. During high school, I was incredibly fortunate to have the most amazing educator that I’ve ever met in my entire life. This man pushed me to develop a love of learning, a passion for science, a desire to improve, and perhaps most of all, an understanding that all people throughout all walks of life are capable of great and unimaginable feats. Upon the completion of my high school I was accepted to, and attended Westminster College in Fulton Missouri.

My struggles were not over, I spent my first year masking my anxiety and depression in the social scene of college, I saw that I was having a problem and asked my family to allow me to come home and get help. After working an assembly line, and nearly being seriously injured from a falling part I knew that education was my best chance to succeed. I reenrolled in Westminster College the next day. I realized that if I wanted to succeed I needed to be willing to work for it. I joined a fraternity, developed an interest in physical fitness, declared majors in psychology, and health & wellness, and set my goals high. I was elected vice president, community service chair, and social chair of my fraternity, and I became more active on campus.

Westminster College has a unique program for assisting those of learning disabilities, and specifically those with a disorder on the autism spectrum. Because of the great impact physical fitness has had on my life I saw that others might benefit from it as well. As a result I created and taught a new, for credit physical education class that focused on those with an autistic diagnoses, that would not only be effective in facilitating the primary goal of increasing physical fitness, but also reducing the typical symptomology of anxiety and depression that is associated with those on the autism spectrum. As a result of this effort I received government funding as well as the highest honor that can be awarded at this institution to a student of psychology. I’m proud to say that this program still continues at the institution and will for the foreseeable future.

Academically after four consecutive semesters on the Dean’s list I graduated with my degrees in psychology and health & wellness. After seeing that I have skill in program planning and organization I sought to incorporate this with my passion for helping others and applied to, and am now attending Texas State’s graduate program for social work. My current goal is to continue in my education, receive my Master’s degree, and become a licensed clinical social worker. My career goal is to hopefully start a business that is oriented around treating those diagnosed with autism through a holistic therapeutic approach. Today I know who I am, I know I am successful, and I’m confident for my future. These things did not come out of thin air, they are a direct result of the education and learning that I received here at LKS. There is a long road ahead for you all, I don’t want you to mistake that, but I can guarantee that now it will be a lot easier.

Now to the parents. As a child that attended LKS I did not realize the level of sacrifice both financially, and emotionally and that you are all making for children. I am forever grateful for my parents for what they were willing to give up to see me succeed. The strongest memory that I have in my life was seeing my father breakdown with me when he was leaving me to return home. Whenever I think about the sheer sacrifice that he, my mom, and my brothers were all taking to see me succeed it is forever humbling to me. Although my parents are not here with us today, I would like to say to them thank you. Thank you for your love, thank you for your resources, and thank you for you never ending dedication to me. I am here today because of you.

I want you to know that your efforts are not in vain, as I have seen many others that graduated with me attend college and be successful. Now as I contemplate my future with my girlfriend of three years, and planning my own family I truly see the level of dedication and commitment that you have for your children. I would like to extend my sincerest regards to you, the families and to the staff here that have worked tirelessly to provide the best possible opportunities to the students. On a final note: life beyond here will be easier because of these experiences. The resources both you and I have available made me the greatest version of myself and I think all of you seated in front of me have the capacity to not only be as successful as I, but far greater than myself.

Thank you very much for you time, Congratulations, and best of luck to you all.