A group of 4- and 5-years-old donned caps and gowns to graduate school in Nashville, but they are just now able to move on to a regular school environment. They have lived most of their lives with hearing aids and had to learn how to speak and listen. The moment was emotional for many families of Mama Lere Hearing School at Vanderbilt’s graduations on Wednesday. "I get to see my grandson graduate from preschool," said Kathy Young, a grandmother of Kellan Young, 4, who graduated from the program. "He's graduating a little bit early. He's done really, really well."

Kellan, who wears a Cochlear hearing implant, led his class with the Pledge of Allegiance during the program before accepting his diploma. "He got Cochlear implants when he was 9 months old and he's done amazing with them," his grandmother said. Young said her grandson is the third family member to come through Mama Lere. She said her son and granddaughter also lost their hearing. "When my son lost his hearing when he was 18 months old, he was probably one of the first children in Tennessee to get a Cochlear implant," Young said. "He got a single channel Cochlear implant and the technology between that and what they have today is just incredible."

The school helps the children overcome their disability from birth. With hearing implants, teachers prepare children to transition into pre-school and kindergarten. "We have small group activities where they learn things that are difficult for them to pick up like vocabulary, phonological awareness, grammar and simple conversational skills," said Michael Douglas, assistant director of Mama Lere Hearing School. The children leave the school better prepared for academics and social skills in a regular school setting. "It's everything to be able to hear like all the other kids,,speak like all the other kids and just fit in and not be different," Young said. Mama Lere had its first graduating class about 10 years ago. Some of the first graduates spoke to the families Wednesday about their achievements. Up to 50 students enroll in the program each year, Douglas said.