StoryPoint Chesterton senior living community has taken extra care to make their employees feel safe and valued during the recent pandemic, particularly when it came to two special employees who are new graduates.
With social distancing guidelines causing schools to postpone commencement ceremonies or host them in a virtual format, graduates everywhere have had to adjust to atypical celebrations this year. The StoryPoint Chesterton team happens to include associate community specialist Celine Certa, who just received her Bachelor of Science in business at Purdue University Northwest, and culinary team member Megan Pratt, who just graduated from Chesterton High School. Both young women were unable to walk in their schools’ ceremonies this year, so their team members decided to find a creative, meaningful way to make up for it.
Sous chef Jon Carotenuto said the idea for a special ceremony hosted at StoryPoint first sprouted when Pratt told him about the situation.
“The fact that she was not able to walk for graduation just didn’t sit well with me, so I decided to see what we could do about it,” he said.
Carotenuto’s coworkers were quick to join the secret surprise plan.
“I simply came up with the idea, and it quickly became a team effort. We had everyone’s help from our amazing executive director Courtney [Fokianos], our life enrichment director Shelly [McCarthy], our settings lead Dale [Slosser], our property administrator Allison [Mitchell], and our community specialist Jeannie [Nowarita] all were a big part of making this happen,” he said.
Pratt’s mother dropped off her cap and gown at StoryPoint, and McCarthy created a cap for Certa to wear. The team surprised the pair with their graduation garb and had them walk down the halls of StoryPoint, processional-style complete with Pomp and Circumstance playing, while their coworkers and residents cheered them on and applauded their achievements. Those in attendance blew bubbles as Pratt and Certa were led into the courtyard, where close family and friends had gathered to surprise them. Nowarita and Carotenuto gave small speeches to show the grads their appreciation and support for their futures.
“I was completely surprised by the graduation ceremony and couldn’t be more thankful to work for such an amazing company,” Certa said. “I think with everything going on in this world, we needed a little normalcy and reason to celebrate. I was surprised and taken aback by how thoughtful my coworkers and all of the residents were to come together for something like this! It meant the world to me and my family to see me graduate.”
“It was definitely a much-needed spirit boost,” Pratt said. “I was really upset that there is a chance that I may not get a regular graduation ceremony, and it was really nice seeing how much everyone cared.”
Certa and Pratt received goodies from their StoryPoint family, including flowers, cards, and their favorite treats.
“I knew Celine loved my white chocolate cranberry cookies, and for Megan I ordered a special cake, because I asked her friends what her favorite dessert was. I ordered and picked it up, a strawberry cream cake from a well-known bakery she likes,” Carotenuto said.
The graduates also received sweet photos of the residents with written words of advice for them.
“My favorite part about working at StoryPoint is bonding with the residents. They quickly become family and I look forward to seeing them every day,” Certa said. “My plans consist of growing professionally with StoryPoint and learning as much as I can to be able to serve families in our community.”
Pratt is hoping to pursue elementary education, journalism, and English at Indiana University Bloomington. Her experience at StoryPoint has been overwhelmingly positive, too.
“It [the graduation] was such a wonderful experience and I’m very grateful to be able to work with such amazing people,” Pratt said.
Carotenuto has only been with StoryPoint for about six months, and he said he’s been moved by how refreshingly compassionate its culture is on all sides.
“This company really does try to make an impact in everyone’s lives,” he said. “Residents and staff alike, the support we get is mind blowing!”
That influence is contagious.
“I felt it was important [to host a graduation celebration] because these girls work their butts off every day they are here, and they deserve to have a graduation experience,” Carotenuto said.
“StoryPoint is so unique and special because of the people here that you won't find anywhere else,” Certa said. “From Courtney, our executive director, who makes you feel so loved, appreciated, and heard to our server Travis who will make you laugh and smile even through the toughest days.”
And, like the advice they gave the graduates, the residents have a perfect way of summing up the StoryPoint experience.
“One of our residents, Bob, said it best: ‘The first day you may be the new guy, but the second day you are family.’ We embrace anyone who walks through our doors like family,” Certa said, “and this graduation ceremony was one of the many examples of this.”
For more information on StoryPoint Chesterton, visit https://www.storypoint.com/chesterton-in/.