Class Of 2022 Overcomes Challenges To Achieve Goals
All Seniors Accepted into College, Class Garners $15 million in Scholarships, Awards
Foundation Academies congratulates members of the Class of ’22 as they step across the stage and into bright futures pursuing engineering, barbering, business, automotive technology, computer science, nursing, psychology and more at colleges, universities, technical schools and businesses.
“This class has truly demonstrated their persistence,” said FA CEO Graig Weiss. “You faced challenges over the past four years, but you have persevered, demonstrated your determination, and now, here you are! Congratulations!”
Mr. Weiss also applauded the resilience of Collegiate faculty, who coped with changing instructional plans, absences, health safety requirements and other fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These professionals have continued to show up because they have huge hearts and are committed to your success,” he said, calling their efforts “heroic.”
The Foundation Academy Collegiate Class of 2022 includes more than 70 students, all living in Trenton. Every graduating senior has been accepted into a college or university, including New Jersey Institute of Technology, Howard University, The Juilliard School, Harvard University, The College of New Jersey and Mercer County Community College among others. Collectively, they have received more than $15 million in academic scholarships and awards.
"These students are making Trenton proud and proving that hard work pays off," said FA Chief Academic Officer Sheria McRae. "I will miss each of them and I can't wait to see what they accomplish next."
McRae will become Chief Executive Officer at Foundation Academies in July, when Graig Weiss steps down after 13 years of leading the public charter school. McRae joined FA in 2010. She is a Trenton native who lives in the city, a Teach for America alumna and a former English teacher.
Keynote speaker Nicole Bradshaw – FA Collegiate’s environmental science teacher – was chosen by class members. She urged graduates to follow their own path and remember each of them is “a limited edition.”
“Be different, be loud, be proud, be unique,” she said. “Read Stephen King novels, wear your blinged out Gucci Belts, dye your hair to match your outfit for a big event, Speak your mind even if no one else agrees, Stick up for those who don’t have as loud of a voice and never be afraid or say you cannot do something…Utilize the resilience you have proven to have as you sit in this chair today.”
She urged graduates to keep in touch, saying “the relationships you have built here are not just because we are your teachers – but because we are a family.”
Graduation Speakers Praise Resilience, Urge Activism
Class valedictorian and salutatorian have earned the highest cumulative grade point averages in FA Collegiate history – with Olanyi Fernandez at 4.11 and Karen Rodriguez at 4.10.
While a student at FA Collegiate, Olanyi co-founded PODER, a campus group focused on uniting Latinx cultures through educational development. She served as president of the National Honor Society, and participated in the UNITY club and the Leadership Development Program. She studied college level statistical science and business courses, in addition to her advanced placement classes. She will be attending Rutgers University to study accounting.
“Reflecting on my high school years, I have realized that Foundation has helped me grow in many ways,” Olanyi said. “I am graduating with a better version of myself… My identity is what I make of the journey. I am proud to say I am a woman who uses her experiences in order to grow.”
Addressing her classmates directly, she applauded their commitment to making our world a better place. “We are the class that is not afraid to speak our voices. We are the class that seeks improvement. We are the class that wants to be a part of the change,” she said.
“As we move on to the new chapter, let us remember to enjoy the journey. Let us take things one step at a time and capture every heartfelt moment. Just as we made an impact in our small school community, we will make even greater impacts in the new world we are entering.”
Salutatorian Karen Rodriguez was an officer in the National Honor Society, a member of PODER club, Trenton Clean-Up Crew and a volleyball athlete. Her aspiration to become a veterinarian motivated her to study medical ethics at a local community college, in addition to her Advanced Placement courses. She plans to attend Villanova University to pursue a degree in biology.
In her speech, Karen credited Spanish teacher Vianney Anzures with helping realize her own quiet strength after being underestimated for years.
“Our class are no strangers to this feeling of underestimation,” Karen said. “We are looked down upon because of the way we look, where we come from, and the environment that we live in…Despite the negative assumptions of others, the class of 2022 knows its worth…
“... as we go down our separate paths, it is important to keep in mind that we should never let someone’s expectations dictate the meaning of true success. The definition of success is completely up to you and your future lies in your own hands.”
Classmate John Vizhco Leon is FA Collegiate’s first graduate to attend Harvard University, where he plans to study computer science. His mother inspired him to persevere, he said; “She didn’t risk everything for me to become nobody.”
“Where a person grows up definitely limits their opportunities –so you just have to create your own path,” he said. “Don’t follow your passion; instead, work for it. Chase something down.”