by Michael Shulansky
Parents, students, and community members recently gathered at Bridgeport’s Bijou Theater for the 2015 New Beginnings Family Academy’s graduation ceremony. The room was packed with supporters of the 35 graduates, for whom the ceremony marked the start of their journey through high school. And graduates heard inspiring words from a speaker who excelled and became a leader in his field, despite a really tough start in life.
School leader Ronelle Swagerty led off the event, thanking parents, grandparents, and guardians for entrusting their children to children to the school. Speaking to the students, Ms. Swagerty reminded them that NBFA would always be their home, saying: “Today marks the end of an era for you as students at NBFA. But just because you're leaving NBFA doesn't mean NBFA is leaving you. This is the start of your lifelong relationship as NBFA alumni. We will always be there for you.”
She was followed by class speaker Nyasia Reid, who wants to study at Georgia University and become a pediatrician. She lauded NBFA for helping her make new, lifelong friends, make memories, and learn life lessons. She made sure to offer her classmates some words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
NBFA was also honored to have Kalimah Priforce as a guest speaker for the class of 2015. Mr. Priforce is Headmaster CEO of Qeyno Labs – a leader in harnessing the STEM interests of high potential youth from low-opportunity settings through their “Hackaton Academy.” Mr. Priforce has been on the cover of USA Today, a MSNBC mini-doc, an Indie award winning film, and was recognized by the White House as a champion of change.
Mr. Priforce told his story, one of growing up with his brother as orphans in a group home. Although he excelled in school and had big dreams, he skipped his high school and college graduation because there wasn’t anyone in the audience who was there for him. He persevered after losing his brother as he was starting college, and went on to build a successful career as an educator. He thanked all the supporters in the audience for their role in helping NBFA’s students make it to graduation.
He said that any opportunity, depending on your perspective, can be a snake or a rope. He urged the NBFA graduates to think of opportunities as ropes, and create those opportunities for themselves. More than anything, he asked the students to build a support team for themselves: “Whether your friends are video game players, or glee club, or science club, join a team. You need a team because you're not going to make it by yourself. All the things I've done, I didn't do it alone. That team is going to get you through some of the most difficult things you could ever experience.”
“Surround yourself with the best people possible, and that's how you win,” urged Priforce as he ended his speech.
School board president David Schalkman also spoke to the students, sharing that if you find something you really like doing, you’ll have a truly happy life.
See photos of the graduation ceremony below:
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