‘A very big wow’
Valedictorians celebrate triumphant graduation
The first class of BPS graduates is coming out of four years fully colored by the pandemic and, reading through an impressive roster of valedictorians, doing so with distinction.
The 33 BPS high school valedictorians, students, educators and city officials detailed at a Fenway Park luncheon yesterday, are going off to a range of colleges all over, prestigious scholarships and full rides, carefully plotted plans, and big ambitions.
“You’re exceptional for what you have overcome to get here,” said Superintendent Mary Skipper to the room full of valedictorians and their families, recollecting that the students began high school as the pandemic began. “Nothing great happens without challenge.”
Beyond the waves of disease, remote learning and isolation, the students recollected, they’ve overcome so much more.
“My high school experience was — I’ll say confusing,” said McKinley Preparatory High valedictorian Kevin Works. “Up until junior year, very confusing. The pandemic hit me heavy in sophomore year. But I was also jumping from home to home. I got kicked out during the pandemic.”
Works, who is going off to Bunker Hill Community College in the fall to learn more about his passion for building computers, said he landed in foster care that year but “kept his head in school” and started to envision his future, motivated by the older brother who raised him.
When he heard he’d be a valedictorian, Works said, he called his brother immediately.
“It was a ‘Wow,'” he said, laughing easily. “A very big wow. I was like, ‘Really?'”
A third of the valedictorians will be the first in their families to go to college, Skipper said. A third are K-12 BPS alum, she added, and another third immigrated from other countries, including the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Haiti, China and Indonesia.
Malaika Allen, valedictorian of the Community Academy of Science and Health, left a small town in Jamaica and her parents four years ago to live with her cousin in Boston.
“It was hard for me,” said Allen. “I’m a momma’s girl. I love my parents so much. But I knew that I’m here for one reason and one reason only, to make them proud and to do my best. So I knew that it was going to be worth it in the end.”
Allen is off to Centre College in Kentucky with the hopes of becoming a pediatric surgeon.
Brighton High valedictorian Kevin Guardado, who plans to become an immigration lawyer after studying at Wesleyan University, recollected in a speech to his fellow valedictorians the choices he made to pursue education and overcome obstacles.
“We have worked so incredibly hard to get to this point, especially through the pandemic,” Guardado said. “However, I feel that this is not the end. This is the beginning for most of us have a bright future ahead and know that we all have the potential to make a positive impact in our communities.”