On June 15th, 109 seniors crossed the stage to pick up diplomas as applause from hundreds of family members, friends and loved ones filled the air. Decorative caps and flowing gowns filled the chairs on stage as the graduates looked beyond the bright lights to the sea of smiling faces. The remarkable graduation speakers included keynote Patrisse Cullours of Black Lives Matter, Alumni Jose Gutierrez, Salutatorian Miranda Hurtado and Valedictorian Vinh Tran.
Of the 109 graduates, 96% were accepted to 4-year colleges or universities across the U.S., including Vinh Tran, the first ECHS grad heading to Harvard College. Other students will be attending Middlebury, University of Wisconsin, Bryn Mawr and UC Berkeley.
“Low ego. High impact.” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and Dignity and Power Now, left the graduating seniors of Environmental Charter High School with these stirring words.
An excerpt from Valedictorian Vinh Tran’s speech:
“I want us all to take a pause to cherish this moment. Think for a second about what this is. This is the moment when all of your hard work over the past four years is recognized – you’re at the pinnacle of the road you started when you first stepped onto the mulch, yes mulch, of this school. Feel proud of yourselves. We’ve reached the end of a long journey from those days back as small freshmen.
Our grades are in, senior thesis passed – all that’s left for us to do now is to take a few small steps across that stage and claim the prize that is our reward for all those long nights, the sleepy eyes in 8am classes, and thousands of cups of coffee.
And even though we may have other momentous occasions, they will never come from a place as special as Charter. We’ll never forget the times that we’ve had here.”
An excerpt from Alumni Speaker, Jose Gutierrez’s speech:
“Statistically, many of us are not supposed to graduate, much less go to college. Our communities don’t come from a culture of college. By this, I mean, that it’s not common to see going to college as a rite of passage to becoming a young adult, as is common in white communities in the United States. But we’re changing that, and sitting on this stage is the proof, as many of our students are going onto college. Your responsibility, then, is to bring back what you learn in college, in your new experiences wherever you go, and use what you bring to empower our ECHS students. As our graduating classes grow, so do the resources we can provide to our ECHS students, who often have little resources to even think about going to college. I share this bit of wisdom with you, from the great Xicana feminist Gloria Anzaldua, ‘I am a turtle, wherever I go, I carry home on my back.’ Your homes nurtured you, and follow you everywhere you go. You have a responsibility to remember where you came from, and nurture your hometown, and Alma Mater, so that one day our students do come from a culture of college, and our families don’t even think twice about the idea of going to college as a rite of passage for our students. Thank you everyone, and congratulations again to the class of 2015.
Photo Credit: Fotorama Studios
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