Members of Boston's Class of 2008 overcome obstacles to earn high school diplomas
BOSTON - This month, students across the City of Boston will walk across the stage to collect their high school diplomas. For some, this event has long been anticipated and expected. For others, it comes after years of facing and overcoming challenges. For all, it represents goals achieved and the results of hard work paid-off. Every member of the class of 2008 has a compelling story. Some have fled war-torn countries, grappled with learning and living their lives in a new language, or returned to school after a fifty-year absence. Yet, despite these challenges, these students have persevered and are graduating as members of the Class of 2008. Here are some of their stories:
Ruo Chen, Allston
Brighton High School
Will attend Harvard University
Ruo Chen came to the United States and to Brighton High School from China at the age of 14. This self-described "shy kid" credits his fellow students with showing him how to socialize in a new land. Ruo credits the diverse community at Brighton High for teaching him how to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, and he looks forward to representing Brighton High at Harvard next year. "I'll tell them what we are all about: taking on challenges and hardships and using our gifts to offer solutions to the problems that face all of us," he writes in his valedictory address.
Chioma Nwaoha, Dorchester
English High School
Will attend Northeastern University
Faith Ndidi Nwaoha, Dorchester
Burke High School
Will attend Boston University
Faith and Chioma Nwaoha immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 2005 together, enrolled in the Boston Public Schools together, and now, they celebrate being named valedictorian of their high schools together. Faith is the valedictorian on the Jeremiah Burke High School while her sister Chioma is the valedictorian of the English High School. They reside with their parents and four siblings in Dorchester. Faith and Chioma enrolled in their respective schools upon arriving in the United States in 2005. Faith was 13-years-old and Chioma was 15-years-old. They were each assigned a class schedule and have been achieving at high levels all along the way. Each has taken many advanced courses, demonstrated impeccable attendance and participated in community service and school leadership activities. Faith is graduating at 16-years-old and Chioma is 18-years-old after three years at their schools.
Eduardo Banrey, Dorchester
Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA)
Will attend Brandeis University
During his sophomore year at the Jeremiah Burke High School, Eduardo Banrey developed a difficult relationship with some of his classmates and stopped coming to school. After missing four months of school, he decided to re-enroll. When he went to register, a staff person at the Family Resource Center recommended that he consider Boston Day and Evening Academy. Eduardo met with staff from the school and in January 2007 became a student in the evening program at BDEA. There he found a supportive environment, teachers to whom he felt comfortable talking, and encouragement and assistance with applying for college. On June 9th Eduardo will graduate as the school's valedictorian and will attend Brandeis University this fall.
Mirlinda Sejdiu, East Boston
Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA)
Will attend Suffolk University
In 1999 Mirlinda Sejdiu and her family of Kosovo Albanians fled ethnic cleansing war-torn homeland and came to America. Despite the challenges of learning a new language and adopting a new lifestyle, Mirlinda has excelled in school. Mirlanda's guidance counselor notes her ability to work well people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds: "watching her interact with her peers gives one the feeling that over time, Mirlanda's influence will spread far beyond the small world that is BCLA."
Carolina DaSilva, East Boston
Boston Latin Academy
Will attend UMass Dartmouth
A first generation American of Brazilian parents, Carolina DaSilva is a strong student with a history of service to her community. She worked at the Brazilian Immigrant Center as a peer leader advocating for safety and health of teenagers in the workplace and helped reform an out-of-date child labor law to include new protections for teenagers. Last month the Brazilian Immigrant Center honored her as an "Outstanding Youth Leader." Carolina currently serves as at Teen Ambassador at the Boston Children's Museum where she assists in the planning and development of cultural events.
Prince Gweh, Dorchester
Another Course to College (ACC)
Will attend Keene State
Prince Gweh arrived at ACC just two years ago following a turbulent childhood in Liberia. Despite facing language barriers, Prince persevered through the school's rigorous college-level English curriculum. A soft-spoken young man, Prince will spend his summer in an internship at Bank of America and head to Keene State next fall to pursue architecture.
Arbora Malushi, Dorchester
Brook Farm Business and Service Academy
Will attend Stonehill College
Arbora and her family came to the United States seven years ago from Albania because her parents wanted a better future and education for their family. A strong student, Arbora worked tirelessly to achieve her best. She struggled with the complexities and idiosyncrasies of the English language and never stopped trying to understand, decode and commit to memory any information she could glean. A leader at her school, Arbora trained to serve as a student advisor to freshman and sophomores at the school and also represented Brook Farm on an international business field trip to London last year.
Lula Mae Johnson, Mattapan
Adult Diploma Program
Will pursue a college degree and then law school
Fifty years after dropping out of high school, 68-year-old Lula Mae Johnson crossed the stage of Faneuil Hall's Great Hall to collect her high school diploma. She was one of 37 adults who received a diploma from the Boston Public Schools last week. A great-grandmother, Mrs. Johnson enrolled in Boston's adult diploma program at the Notre Dame Education Center in South Boston in 2006. Rather than getting a GED (General Equivalency Diploma), she opted to pursue the more rigorous adult diploma, which required her to meet both City and State standards, including passing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Achievement System (MCAS) exam.
Mrs. Johnson completed the academic tasks required and then persevered through multiple attempts to pass the MCAS. She spent Saturday mornings attending MCAS "boot camp" while her husband would wait patiently for her in the office. Mrs. Johnson passed the English Language Arts MCAS on her second try, but was not able to pass the math portion after three attempts. In lieu of the exam, Mrs. Johnson submitted a portfolio of hundreds of math problems demonstrating her proficiency in the subject to the State. She recently learned that her portfolio was accepted, and she has completed all of the requirements for a high school diploma.
Not content to stop here, Mrs. Johnson is planning to attend college and then law school in the future.
For more information about any of these graduates, or to arrange interviews, contact the Communications Office: 617-635-9265.