For over two decades the Boston Public School’s (BPS) annual valedictorian luncheon has honored students from every neighborhood that have the highest academic achievements in their respective high schools.
After a two year hiatus the 24th Annual BPS Valedictorian Luncheon returned in person last Tuesday at Fenway Park with Mayor Michelle Wu, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and the Boston School Committee paying tribute to the best and brightest graduating seniors.
Among the students honored at Fenway Park this year were three Jamaica Plain students who were named valedictorians of their class and will have the privilege and honor of delivering the keynote address at their high school graduations this month.
Jamaica Plain’s Ivanna Mercado, valedictorian for English High School, Worknesh Bekele, valedictorian of Fenway High School and Hazel McLaughlin, valedictorian of Muriel S. Snowden International School at Copley were all honored at the luncheon.
Mercado will attend UMass-Boston in the fall while Bekele will attend Northeastern University and McLaughlin will be heading off to Boston University.
The three Jamaica Plain students were among the 33 BPS valedictorians honored last week.
“I am so excited to see you all,” Mayor Wu told the honorees. “I’ve been really looking forward to this and my heart is bursting with pride for each one of you knowing how much you have fought through and barreled forward over the last couple of years. You are truly the pride of your families, your city, your communities, and you are the future that we’re counting on. So I’m really excited and very honored and grateful to be here and to share this stage.”
Wu told the graduating valedictorians that as they move on for high school they will face a really challenging moment.
“It’s a challenging moment for each one of our families after what we have experienced over the last couple of years,” said Wu. “I hope the valedictorians in this room recognize what they have experienced will be a source of strength as they forever move forward. The fact that you are where you are right now, despite the impossible happening at home, at school, in all the lives of people across the neighborhoods of Boston, shows just how ready you are to emerge and carry forward our city.”
Superintendent Cassellius took the opportunity to thank the student’s parents and guardians for their unwavering support of each valedictorian during these trying two years.
“A special recognition to the parents and guardians who are here at our tables,” said Cassellius. “Parents and families are our children’s first teachers and moments like today are just a testament to the unwavering support and guidance that you all bring to your children. So to all the adults who have guided our young minds, helping them to become the students and scholars and leaders that they are today. Well done and thank you so much.”
Cassellius then went on to offer some advice to the students.
“I thought of three things to share with you,” she said. “The first is to never let others define you. You get to decide your identity. You get to decide who you love, and you get to decide what your contributions are going to be in this world. Second, be mindful of the choices that you make these next several years as you embark on this new journey because the choices you make today, impact what choices are available tomorrow. And third, don’t beat yourself up. If you do make a poor choice or mistake, look at what went wrong and think through it and learn from it. I wish I had learned this earlier. All of us here know that you are already hard working and that you certainly know how to persevere through tough times and that you don’t give up.”