June 21, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
Even before the graduating class of the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy magnet school flipped the tassels of their mortarboard caps from one side to the other and made their commencement official Wednesday evening, they had distinguished themselves in three ways, their principal, Eduardo V. Genao said.
They were the school's largest graduating class - 83 kids - in its nearly decadelong history.
All of them had been accepted at either a four- or two-year college.
And as a group, they had earned the largest amount of monetary awards and scholarships of any class before.
After a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by seniors Salice Kelley and Denisha Thompson that could fill the rafters of any arena, the night's theme took shape - fate is not determined for you, its decided by you.
Or, as valedictorian Christopher Jaunai said, borrowing words from Jean Nidetch, the founder of the famous diet program Weight Watchers, "It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny."
"If someone puts you down, get back up," he said. "If someone tells you you're wrong, prove that you're right ...You are in charge of your own destiny, and no one can take that away from you."
Also speaking were salutatorian Jessica Arter and senior class officer Diandra Dakers, both halting their words several times to hold back tears.
The keynote speaker, Kevin Washington, president and CEO of the Greater Hartford YMCA, said that he, like all the graduates, had help from family, friends or mentors along the way. He told about a speech he heard as a child given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was one of many moments, Washington said, that he can now pinpoint as shaping his decisions, like the ones these graduates would soon make.
Evoking King's speech, Washington asked the magnet school's graduates to have an internal commitment to beauty, love and justice and to make it their responsibility to make life better for all people.
Washington left them with one thought, quoting Benjamin E. Mays, social activist and former president of Morehouse College in Atlanta - "Not failure, but low aim is a sin."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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