There were balloons and a pizza reception. Certificates were ready for each student as guest speakers extolled the hard work of the soon-to-be graduates.
But most moving of all at the Decision Day ceremony, held in the auditorium of Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, were the heartfelt words of the seniors themselves.
Students like Evans Godwin Agyemang, one of the top students in the senior class who immigrated from Ghana, has only been at Alvarez for less than two years. “Decision Day means many things,” he said to his classmates. “It means that I can announce to my fellow students that I am finally going to college.”
Agyemang, who learned English as he was adjusting to high school in the United States, is hoping to study pharmacy and plans to attend Rhode Island College.
During the ceremony, Valerie Diaz, who rewrote her college essay 28 times, expressed her gratitude to her teachers and guidance counselors “for being there when we needed them most.” Diaz tearfully recalled growing up without a father and encouraged her classmates. “If you have a dream, hold onto it,” she said. “Never give up.”
Decision Day was a day of celebration at Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School as seniors participated in one of their favorite traditions held annually for the past four years and looked forward to their futures. The event coincides with the date that seniors must notify their accepted colleges and universities of their final decision.
Kazeem Adediran, high school advisor for the College Crusade, and Belisa Santiago, college advisor with the Brown University College Advising Corps, hosted the event, which was sponsored by both organizations as a culmination of their year’s work with the high school’s seniors. The National College Advising Corps places recent college graduates at various high schools around the country to serve as college advisors to graduating seniors.
Of the 110 seniors in this year’s graduating class, 47 percent plan to attend four-year colleges, while the rest will attend community colleges, technical schools or enlist in the military.
“Everyone is going on for further training,” said Principal Zawadi Hawkins. “Going to college is emphasized, and we don’t let them graduate without a plan.”
The junior class was invited to the event so they could observe and be inspired by the seniors’ success. Awards were given to recognize outstanding members of the junior class. At the end of the ceremony, the juniors returned to class while the seniors enjoyed a pizza party together.
During the festive ceremony, which included short speeches from members of the senior class, each student received a certificate indicating their next level of education.
“I feel pride,” said Principal Hawkins as she looked upon the senior class, who will be leaving the school in a few weeks. She commended them for their school spirit, mentoring younger students, coordinating school activities, being helpful and staying late to work on their homework or college applications.
“You have stepped up to the plate,” she said. “You have taken care of your schoolwork and your college applications. Because you have been focused, you are off to a bright future. You are responsible, respectful, kind people and I have seen a lot of dedication from many of you.”
Ashley Greene, program director of the College Advising Corps at Brown University, congratulated the students for their hard work and success and for reaching the day’s milestone. “Celebrate your achievement,” she said. She advised them to be prepared for more hard work in their futures in college, the military and in the workforce.
“Today,” she said, “is a special day for yourselves, your families, your school and the students coming from behind you in high school. Inspire those watching you who will be taking this step.”
She encouraged the students to “find an undergraduate, pull them aside and pass on something you’ve learned to encourage and motivate them.”
Class secretary Melissa Alvarez-Jerez thanked the school’s teachers and guidance counselors, as well as the college advisors, for their help. “We are here today because of them,” she said.
Senior class vice president Braulio Castillo, said, “As one book closes and another one opens, our journey does not end tonight. Our journey goes on.”
Francy Mata, who plans to attend the College of the Holy Cross, said Decision Day was special. “It was nice to be recognized after all of our hard work.”