Zachary Lerman, 19, spent his life with the Washingtonville Central School District. He has autism, so his school requirements were different than other students, but he took part in the same big events.
"Zach went to senior banquet; Zach went to prom; Zach had his yearbook picture taken," said Lerman's father, Steve Lerman.
And he wanted to take part in graduation. But Washingtonville, like many districts in the state, didn't have a policy that would allow him to do that. He got a certificate as a disabled student, not a high school diploma.
"No family should be denied what should be one of the best days in their lives," Lerman said. "And that is watching their child walk up on that stage, be presented with a certificate or a diploma, shaking all the appropriate hands."
So Assemblyman James Skoufis created Zachary's Law, a bill that requires schools to develop policies that lets disabled students take part in commencement activities, as long as they meet their certificate requirements: "If a student with disabilities has made progress, that they be able to participate in this life moment with their classmates that they grew up with," Skoufis said.
Fellow Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara is the state's autism subcommittee chairman, and he's backing the bill as part of his Autism Action New York package. And Senator Bill Larkin says he'll make Zachary's Law a priority bill.
The Washingtonville Central School District worked with the Lerman family to make Zach's dream become reality. He graduated with his fellow classmates, and the district is working on a new policy.
"Attempting to create a board policy that outlines specfic criteria and awards students like Zach and others for the work they've done to this point," said Washingtonville High School Principal Brian Connolly.
Zachary could spend two more years at high school, but with his certificate in hand, he's ready to give college a shot.