Non-verbal student delivers graduation address using speech synthesizer

A student told his classmates to keep running life’s relay race as he gave the commencement address at his graduation ceremony using speech software.

Ahmed Ali, who is non-verbal, was graduating from Minneapolis Public Schools’ Transition Plus programme, which helps students with educational difficulties to move from high school into adult life.

The student worked with a speech pathologist to programme the device, and now has aspirations to go to university.

“Your life is a relay race,” the 21-year-old said. “The track is your life. Every time you achieve something you pass the baton to the next person. Guess who you are passing the baton to? It’s you.

“Each stage of your life you are passing it to a new you. It’s not the end of the line for you but it’s a new you in our beautiful world.”

Ahmed, who has spent three years at Transition Plus and was part of a leadership class, has picked up a number of nicknames including Baby Obama, which he was given due to his charismatic demeanour.

He ended his speech with a mic drop, mimicking President Barack Obama’s appearance at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2016, when he famously closed by saying: “Obama out.”

Ahmed Ali with Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Ed Graff, and board directors Kim Ellison and Kimberly Caprini (Minneapolis Public Schools)
Ahmed Ali with Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Ed Graff, and board directors Kim Ellison and Kimberly Caprini (Minneapolis Public Schools)

Principal of Transition Plus Jason Backes told Press Association: “Ahmed is just an amazing young man who has really captured the hearts of everyone he has come into contact with.

“When he came to us we just that he had something special… he’s a very intelligent young man who we believe didn’t have a chance to have a voice in the past.

“He has really just shown his ability and knowledge in many different areas, including social justice and politics.

“He was chosen by the graduation committee to give the commencement address because of his growth while at Transition Plus in so many areas and his leadership skills.”

- Press Association

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