An emotional scene promises to play out Sunday at the Hersey High School graduation in Arlington Heights. That's when a set of Arlington Heights triplets will graduate, but their story is far from traditional.
Johnny, Maggie and Vince Reisel are a close-knit group. They made a conscious decision to attend Hersey together, despite living within the Rolling Meadows High School boundaries.
They were able to do this since Johnny is on the autism spectrum and he would benefit from the Career Life Skills programs for Northwest Suburban High School District 214, which are at Hersey.
His siblings chose to attend the same school as their brother, and from all accounts it has proved to be a good decision for them -- and for the Hersey community.
"The three children have contributed to our school community in countless ways, between academics, athletics and activities," says CLS teacher Megan Brownley.
Most recently, Maggie and Vince helped advance the boys' and girls' volleyball teams into regionals and sectionals as the starting setters for their respective teams. They also have thrived on Hersey's academics and will attend the University of Notre Dame this fall.
"The culture of Hersey is so unique and amazing," Maggie Reisel says. "It's like no other. The three of us are gifted so differently, and yet Hersey has embraced us all."
Her brother, Vince, agrees, adding, "Hersey has prepared us well for our future."
In Johnny's case, he has benefitted from the CLS program, which includes self-contained classes, integration into regular classes, independent living opportunities, and vocational skills.
While he has attended mostly self-contained classes, he has been able to take general education art classes over the last two years with the help of an instructional assistant and accommodations by teacher Suzanne Renner.
Last week, Renner and her colleagues unveiled a mural filled with intricate drawings of cities drawn by Johnny each week over the last year.
"Johnny is a gifted artist who loves geography," Brownley says. "When he combines the two, he draws cities and countries from around the world. His details are impeccable and he draws from memory."
Murals done by different groups of art students are on display throughout Hersey, but Johnny's will be installed in the newly expanded CLS wing, showcasing the talent of this emerging artist who has benefitted from Hersey's supportive surroundings.
"For us, this is not about Johnny's artwork," says his mother, Eileen Reisel. "It's about a community that focuses on growing strengths and gifts.
"Of course we worry about Johnny in a world that may just see his autism and not look beyond," she adds. "But in the halls of Hersey he was made to shine, and there his art work will stay."