June 23, 2006
By ANNIE TASKER, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Public High School class President Chaz Gatewood grinned as he waited for Principal Zandralyn Gordon to introduce him. The last diploma had just been handed out, and his speech marked the close of the school's 2006 graduation.
At last, it was Gatewood's turn.
"I want to begin by saying ... finally! Thank God!" He pumped his fists in the air as 156 fellow graduates roared inside Central Connecticut State University's Welte Auditorium Thursday.
Superintendent Robert Henry congratulated members of the class for their hard work, and many of them for continuing to pursue an education after graduation. Of 157 graduates, 133 will go on to attend vocational schools or two- or four-year colleges.
"Today is a day of celebration, a day you and your family will remember always," he said.
Henry also thanked the parents and guardians who helped their children get this far. He asked the graduates to stand up, turn around and applaud the people who supported them through 13 years of school. The graduates, dressed in blue caps, gowns and shawls embroidered with the school's initials, turned and cheered for the family and friends behind them.
"I knew that would be exciting for all of us," Henry said.
Forty-eight awards, many in honor of classes that had gone before them at Hartford Public, were handed out at the ceremony.
Senior Felicia Reed received an additional certificate signed by Mayor Eddie Perez for not having missed a single day of school since she started pre-kindergarten.
Guest speaker Juan A. Arteaga, a graduate of the school's Class of 1995, talked about being a kid who grew up in the projects off Park Street and left to become a Wall Street lawyer. He told the graduates that they had the ability and the obligation to find their callings in life.
"You owe it to yourself and your parents," he said. "You've worked too long and too hard not to make the most of your God-given potential."
It wasn't that long ago that some people were deprived of the opportunities open to the Class of 2006 because of their race and ethnicity, Arteaga said. He cited the work of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks as reasons the graduates were about to enter a world where they can follow their dreams.
"They answered the call for you," said Arteaga. "Now it's your turn to answer the call for them."
Max Condren had harsh words for the local media in his valedictory speech. He recently cornered a television news reporter who Condren said came to the school in search of a negative story and asked him why the media always portrayed Hartford Public in such a poor light.
"Why don't they zoom in on the 97 percent that went on to college last year?" Condren asked. "They need to focus on the way our school is improving. Our school has so much going for it."
He listed the robotics team's second-place ranking, an academic rally and a recent soccer success as examples.
"There are a few individuals who don't get to experience this love. Our love. Hartford High love," he said.
The superintendent closed his remarks with words he'd once heard from another principal.
"We have given you the ingredients. Now please, go out and make a cake."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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