March 5, 2017

Long-sought schooling change delivers results for Gino

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Matthew Wright /

Gino Berthiaume, 16, has made considerable progress since WPS agreed to send him to a residential school program.

All it took was a small pepperoni, onion and mushroom pizza to see how far Eugene “Gino” Berthiaume had come in a year.

As Gino was counting his own, hard-earned money to pay the Kelley Square Pizza delivery person, his mother, Kelly Rawson, opened the box to find the aforementioned toppings. Which would have been fine — a classic combination, indeed — except, Gino had asked for broccoli rather than mushrooms.

Ordering broccoli on a pizza is rare for most 16-year-olds. Even less likely for many teens would be a mature and rational response to the topping turmoil.

Gino instead shrugged his shoulders at his mom’s revelation, finished counting his money, and soon would be enjoying his lunch — mushrooms and all.

Using American Sign Language and beaming a wide smile, Gino pointed out to his mother that he didn’t get bothered by the mistake. “He’s remembering back when he didn’t cooperate. So he knows the difference and he’s proud of himself,” Rawson said.

Matthew Wright /

Gino, with his mom Kelly, home for school vacation.

Gino, indeed, isn’t like many 16-year-olds. He is deaf and suffers from developmental delays, epilepsy and cerebral palsy due to a virus contracted at birth.

Over the past year, with the benefit of a residential school program tailored to his needs, Gino has learned not to get angry over such minor details. (Last winter he would have refused to eat the pizza, or cooperate in general, Rawson said, for quite some time afterward.) Spending this past February school vacation with his mom, he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

Scroll down for a photo gallery of Gino and his family from photographer Matthew Wright (

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