On Friday June 18th, the Ben Bronz Academy held a socially-distant graduation ceremony for families and classmates of the five graduates.
By Sophie Christensen
The ceremony began as the whole school lined the sidewalk between Ben Bronz Academy and Northwest Catholic High School.
Students and teachers flanked the beginning of the sidewalk, with families gathering near the end. Almost everyone had pom poms or signs in hand, ready to cheer on the graduates, who walked from the academy into Northwest Catholic Auditorium, where graduation was held.
Executive Director Kim Holley started the ceremony with a few remarks. Five graduates is a large class for Ben Bronz academy, she noted. Although they aren’t able to have a normal graduation, it will still be one that they never forget.
“This day is one of the most important days of your life,” she reminded them.
Next, education Director Christina Lamphere spoke of community at the academy. “When we finally came back to in-person learning, they were happy to see each other, to find that community again … the one that they said they didn’t miss, but in reality they missed it a lot more than they realized.”
They made it through the most difficult year, always supporting one another if someone began to fall behind in school. Without the friendship between these five graduates, today wouldn’t have been achievable, she said.
“They helped each other make their dreams possible: some head to college, another goes to a transition program, another to a technical school, and another to an EMT certification program.”
All five students prepared speeches for the ceremony. The first was Lucas Aguliar from Wethersfield, CT.
He thanked his mom for giving him the chance to attend Ben Bronz Academy, his sister, his grandparents, and his faculty advisor. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me to get to where I am and believed in me,” he said.
The next graduate, Jennie Peck from Glastonbury, shared her appreciation for the academy. “Going to school here has really made a difference in my life,” she explained. She thanked all of her teachers (or “mediators,” as the academy calls them) for making her feel welcome and imparting their knowledge and wisdom upon her. Lastly, she thanked her parents for not giving up on her.
Following Jennie, Asenya Pica-Taylor from Suffield delivered an emotional speech about her educational hardships before finding Ben Bronz Academy. Because of the academy, she “had hope for the first time within [herself].” Ben Bronz Academy didn’t just give her an education; it gave her a family, Asenya explained.
Next, Gretchen Rathbone from Colchester voiced her appreciation for her parents, friends, and teachers. Though she only spent one year at the academy, she believes she’s grown immensely. Gretchen ended her speech with a quote from Kerry Washington: “Your life is your story. The adventure ahead of you is your journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”
The last graduate to speak was Jacob Sullivan from Wallingford. “I came here with no goals and no chances at a good future, now I’m leaving with a bright future and with people I consider family,” Jacob said.
Each graduate presented flowers to their parents after their speech.
After the five speeches, the graduates received their diplomas from Christina Lamphere, the Educational Director.
Next year, Jennie will attend Landmark College for a degree in Early Childhood Education. Asenya will attend University of Hartford.
A complete list of graduates follows below:
Lucas Aguilar – Wethersfield, CT
Asenya Pica-Taylor – Suffield, CT
Jennie Peck – Glastonbury, CT
Gretchen Rathbone – Colchester, CT
Jacob Sullivan – Wallingford, CT
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