Just as three Capital Preparatory Magnet School graduating seniors were about to have their photograph taken Friday, they cried out "Wait! Briana, get into the picture."
The three girls gestured excitedly at salutatorian Briana Sanchez, who had just stepped into the school's atrium with her family.
But just as the camera was about to flash, another few seniors walked into the atrium, rushing to join the girls, crouching in front of them. Then, another. And finally — by the time the photograph was taken — nearly all 32 members of the class of 2013 had squeezed themselves into the frame.
"We're just so close," said senior Hugh McCalla. "Sure, we have our cliques, but at the end of the day, we're all good friends."
Capital Prep celebrated its eighth commencement Friday night, where family and friends' cheers and applause echoed through the rafters of the large, bright gymnasium. Capital Prep, which claims it sends 100 percent of its graduates to a four-year college, met that goal again, an accomplishment the school's founder and principal, Steve Perry, calls "not what you'd expect of Hartford children."
"When I said we wanted to send all the kids to college, people laughed," he said. "They said, you can't get Hartford kids to do that. You can't get them to dress up in uniforms and attend school year-round."
But the students not only attended high school, they completed a mandatory senior social justice project, participated in a sports team and activities and took college classes at Capital Community College, Perry said.
Senior Janai Johnson was excited to swap her school blazer for a cap and gown, and said her most cherished memory would be that of the bonds she made on various sports teams: soccer, basketball, lacrosse and track and field.
Senior Kahlil Dukes, who will be playing basketball for the University of Southern California, said he'll most miss the interaction at Capital Prep with younger students in the K-12 school.
He offered some advice to the students he leaves behind: "Stay mentally strong, especially when things get hard. Just stay with it mentally."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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