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A Message to Our High-School Graduates

Graduates | Students from HCZ graduating

On June 23rd, we held a combined graduation for our two Promise Academy® charter schools. At Promise Academy® I, the class was the first to have graduated after starting with us in kindergarten. At Promise Academy® II, this was the school’s first graduating class. In both schools, 100% of our graduates were accepted to college. Below are excerpts from my address that morning.

Anne Williams-Isom
Harlem Children’s Zone

First, I want to thank all our Promise Academy® parents and families that are here today. Your encouragement, dedication and love for these young men and women have made them the brilliant and successful scholars they are today. I want to thank you for your trust in us and for the day-in, day-out working partnership you have maintained with us over the years. You are the foundation that these schools are built upon.

Next, I want to give a shout out to the hardest-working staff in education — the Promise Academy® teachers, administration, after-school staff and principals. You guys are incredible and truly are the Army of Love that Geoff often talks about. From the moment anyone walks into our buildings, they can feel the love and commitment that you have for our students and families.

And now I’d like to acknowledge my beautiful graduates. You know that I have unconditional love for each and every one of you. You are what gets me up smiling in the morning and puts the pep in my step throughout the day. You make me hopeful for the future.

You have proved to your younger schoolmates, your community and your country that our education model works. One-hundred percent of both classes have graduates that have been accepted to college, which is spectacular. If someone asks one of your schoolmates what kind of school do you go to, they can say: “I go to a school where everyone goes to college.”

You have demonstrated without question that children from low-income communities can succeed if they are given the right supports. So feel free to think of yourselves today as true American heroes.

Now that you are a graduate, I can let you in on a secret.

You see, while I am thrilled that you have successfully completed your academic subjects, they were not the most important things you learned here. Let me tell you what secretly bring me the most joy and pride.

You calculated quadratic equations, but you learned how to organize yourself to master these complex academic subjects throughout high school.

You analyzed great novels, but you learned to voice your own thoughts in a clear, persuasive way.

You read about the rise and fall of civilizations, but you learned that you are better than you sometimes give yourself credit for.

You studied some dark times in our past, but you learned that you have a bright future ahead of you.

You became fluent in the use of technology, but you learned that there are people around you that care deeply about you and want the best for you.

You read about the world’s great religions, but you have learned to be thankful for the blessings you have been given and to hold gratitude at the core of your daily life.

You examined globes and maps, but you learned that you have an important place in this world and that the world desperately needs your service and for you to be your best self.

In short, you — the graduate — have taken the first indisputable steps toward becoming an adult, which means being responsible for yourself and for making the world a better place.