Jack Higgins didn’t graduate to a shower of applause. When the high school senior walked the stage at his Carmel High School graduation, the room was silent—and for a very good reason.

Higgins, who has autism and is extremely sensitive to sound, and his family had concerns about the grad participating in the ceremony. But the Putnam County, New York principal wasn’t going to let Higgins’ sensitivity stop the young man from graduating with his class.

Instead of cheers and thunderous applause, principal Lou Riolo asked the students, families and staff to sit in silence as Higgins accepted his diploma. Riolo told CNN, “It was important to pull this off.” He added, “First off for Jack, second for his family who could experience the same event as every other parent/family whose child reaches this milestone was of great importance. Lastly to give the opportunity to everyone in that arena a chance to assist in making one young man’s and his families graduation dreams a reality.”

When it came time for Higgins to walk the stage at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center (where Carmel High School held its graduation), Higgins got a standing ovation—without a single sound.

Even though Riolo and his staff planned the silent part, they hadn’t said a word to the students about standing. The principal told CNN, “They are a class act and superseded expectations. For example them rising to their feet after Jack received his diploma was them. It was not preplanned and no one told them to act like that that. They felt compelled to show their support in that way. They made that amazing compassionate gesture on their own.”

—Erica Loop

Featured photo: Raney Day Media via YouTube



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