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In city graduation ceremonies, students reflect on their journeys

Sunset Park High School Principal Corinne Vinal poses with a graduate after she receives her diploma.
Sunset Park High School Principal Corinne Vinal poses with a graduate after she receives her diploma.
Anika Anand/Chalkbeat

Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz each took the stage at a city high school’s first graduation ceremony — nearly five decades after plans for the school were first laid.

But at Sunset Park High School, as at many high schools across the city, some of the most poignant words came not from the keynote speakers but from graduating seniors themselves.

Sunset Park’s 1,500 students are divided into three small learning communities revolving around art, business, and health. Each community produced a valedictorian and salutatorian who spoke at commencement on Wednesday.

Lisa Chen, a salutatorian from the health program, talked about how shy she used to be and how the school helped her gain confidence. “And look, I’m up here giving a speech today,” she said to a round of applause.

Monica Flores, the salutatorian from the arts program, talked about how much people had changed in the four years of high school and ended her speech by quoting Dr. Who: “We’re all stories in the end. Make it a good one.”

And Nimra Khan, valedictorian from the business program, told her classmates that even if they enjoy what they’re doing, hardships will still exist. “So what I’m asking from each of you is to meet those challenges straight on, with your head held high and your heart wide open,” she said.

At other schools, too, students reflected on their paths to graduation and offered advice to their peers. Here are highlights from other ceremonies we attended. Leave a comment to share highlights from the graduation ceremonies you attended.

The International High School at Lafayette

Yishan Cai and Inna Kim together delivered the valedictorian and salutatorian address at their high school, which exclusively enrolls new immigrants. They said,

When we first arrived in this country from places as far as China, Uzbekistan, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Brazil and Albania, we struggled with a new language, making friends, discovering a new city, and discrimination. But it was soon clear that we all had these struggles in common. …Looking around, I realize that we may face more challenges than many other high school graduates in the country today. We are immigrants, we are people of color, we are English language learners, and we are urbanites. This is who we are, and these aspects of our identity also make us strong, make us more determined, make us more prepared for anything that will come our way.

The Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics

Senior class president Michelle Martinez addressed her classmates. Listen to her remarks:

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