Black­stone Val­ley Prep grad­u­ates first class First class in char­ter school’s his­tory cel­e­brates com­mence­ment

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

CUMBERLAND – June 16 is an im­por­tant day in the life of Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee. Not only is it his birth­day, but he can now say it’s the day when Black­stone Val­ley Prep High School’s first se­nior class grad­u­ated.

“What a bet­ter birth­day present, I can’t imag­ine one,” McKee said as he ad­dressed the grad­u­at­ing mem­bers of the Class of 2018 on Satur­day af­ter­noon. “June 16 is a great day in my life. I think the word ‘legacy’ is re­ally im­por­tant be­cause what you do to­day will make a dif­fer­ence in terms of what hap­pens to­mor­row. It’s just in­cred­i­ble to be here to­day to watch this first grad­u­at­ing class of a school that we dreamed about so many years ago.”

As mayor of Cumberland, McKee spear­headed the cre­ation of Rhode Island May­oral Acad­e­mies, which passed as part of the state bud­get in 2008. RIMA in­cludes the pub­lic char­ter school net­work for Black­stone Val­ley Prep and McKee presently sits on the BVP Board of Di­rec­tors.

“What you started has made BVP what it is to­day,” he told the se­niors in­side the BVP High School gym­na­sium. “And as you head to col­lege, you will show col­lege pro­fes­sors and pres­i­dents around the coun­try the cal­iber of stu­dents they can ex­pect from BVP. I en­cour­age you all to do your best, be pre­pared, you never know when your op­por­tu­nity will come. Think, plan, in­vent, create, and most im­por­tant, cel­e­brate.”

David Jose, dean of col­lege and ca­reers at BVP High, served as the key­note speaker for Satur­day’s com­mence­ment cer­e­mony.

“I come to you to­day im­mensely grate­ful for each and every one of you…” Jose said. “I can’t help but feel that I my­self am a changed man. I’m a changed man be­cause you’ve pushed my think­ing, you’ve chal­lenged my own as­sump­tions, you’ve never al­lowed me to be any­thing other than my best self.”

Jose said that while his time with the se­niors has been any­thing but con­ven­tional, his role on Satur­day as the key­note speaker was to give some part­ing words of ad­vice.

“The first piece of ad­vice is sim­ple: don’t just lis­ten to adults,” he said. “You’ve come to a part of life where guid­ance is help­ful, but there’s sim­ply not enough. Go and make some­thing of your­selves.”

“Fear is a sign that you’re do­ing things right,” he said of the sec­ond bit of ad­vice. “We spend so much of our lives afraid of com­mit­ment, afraid of dis­ap­point­ing our fam­i­lies, afraid of be­ing afraid, but life is so much big­ger than all of our fears com­bined.”

“To­mor­row will come and you won’t be a BVP stu­dent any­more and hon­estly that might be a lit­tle scary, but with it comes new op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he continued. “That should be free­ing.”

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Jeremy Chi­ap­petta looked out at the grad­u­at­ing se­niors and said he was in awe.

“We have shared with you blood, sweat, tears over the past year, in some cases four, in some cases eight…” he said. “You have earned this mo­ment. You’ve stayed up late sub­mit­ting projects, meet­ing dead­lines, you’ve worked harder than any other high school­ers in the state, if not the coun­try. You’ve laid the foun­da­tion on which grad­u­at­ing classes will stand for years to come.”

Vale­dic­to­rian and Cumberland res­i­dent Samantha Or­tiz-Muriel came to the United States from Mex­ico when she was 11 years old. She said when she came, she “didn’t have many ex­pec­ta­tions.” But lit­tle by lit­tle, she said, she worked hard and was able to cel­e­brate a dual ac­com­plish­ment on Satur­day – grad­u­at­ing and be­ing the top stu­dent in her class.

“I’m just very proud of all the stu­dents here who are grad­u­at­ing with me, they’re all great peo­ple. The teach­ers be­lieve in us and go­ing to col­lege, we’re leav­ing a legacy that no mat­ter where we’re from, what­ever back­ground, what­ever in­come, we can achieve our goals,” Or­tiz-Muriel said.

Or­tiz-Muriel will at­tend Tufts Uni­ver­sity in the fall and to go to col­lege as BVP High’s vale­dic­to­rian was an ac­com­plish­ment for her­self and her fam­ily, say­ing sac- ri­fices were made and her mother gave up so much to come to the United States and pro­vide her with the op­por­tu­ni­ties she’s re­ceived.

Salu­ta­to­rian and Lin­coln res­i­dent J.R. Stager grad­u­ated as an Ea­gle Scout who will at­tend the United States Naval Academy at An­napo­lis this sum­mer.

“Legacy is some­thing that you can create and make for your­self … What started in fifth grade or joined us in high school helped us as we grew,” Stager said. “One of the big­gest things we leave be­hind is a legacy.”

Stager called this group of se­niors a gritty bunch of pi­o­neers, ex­celling in class­rooms with­out hav­ing a build­ing to call their own un­til re­cently and be­ing the first BVP High School class to take the PSAT and SAT and ap­ply for col­lege.

“We never had a home to call our own un­til now. This build­ing will be the step­ping stone for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions…” Stager said. “We still have so much more to ac­com­plish. Our legacy will con­tinue.”

Pho­tos by Jonathan Bis­son­nette

Stu­dents from Black­stone Val­ley Prep High School’s Class of 2018 cheer as they lis­ten to speak­ers dur­ing Satur­day’s grad­u­a­tion at the high school’s gym­na­sium.

Stu­dents ap­plaud as they lis­ten dur­ing com­mence­ment cer­e­monies.

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