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Mayor, School Committee and Superintendent Honor 35 Valedictorians From the Boston Public Schools Class of 2019
District Celebrates Valedictorians at 21st Annual Luncheon
BOSTON — Tuesday, May 28, 2019 — Today, 35 high school valedictorians from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) were honored at the 21st Annual BPS Valedictorians Luncheon at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto, and BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille recognized the valedictorians for their outstanding accomplishments during a ceremony emceed by WGBH television and radio host and commentator Callie Crossley.
"The 2019 BPS valedictorians are an exceptional group of Bostonians who possess amazing talent, and have worked very hard to graduate at the top of their class," said Mayor Walsh. "Together they represent the promise of a strong public education. I challenge each and every valedictorian to think about how they can positively contribute to the world, because I have no doubt that some incredible leaders in our city and our country are among this graduating class."
This year’s valedictorians were born in nine different countries, while more than one-quarter of the valedictorians are “home grown” BPS students, or have attended BPS schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Forty percent were born outside the US. Another 43 percent will be the first in their families to attend college.
“The 2019 valedictorians represent the multicultural fabric of the BPS community and are exemplary global citizens, prepared to face the triumphs and challenges ahead of them,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “I am so proud of our young scholars’ accomplishments thus far and look forward to seeing all that they achieve in the future.”
The Boston Foundation, Eastern Bank, Shah Family Foundation, and Steward Health Care were the major sponsors of the ceremony. Any proceeds from the luncheon will benefit the City of Boston Scholarship Fund.
“Graduating as valedictorian is a profound accomplishment and these bright, young scholars should be incredibly proud of themselves,” said Interim Superintendent Perille. “I am in awe of the community engagement and peer leadership our valedictorians have exhibited, in addition to their scholastic and extracurricular achievements. They are leaders among fellow students and serve as role models for us all.”
Joselyn Carvalho of the Henderson K-12 Inclusion School provided this year’s valedictorian’s address. “As we are now entering the next chapter in our life remember: ‘Get out of your heads and into your hearts,’” said Carvalho during her speech. “Never let someone tell you that you can't, and never let someone make you feel less than, because everyone here is destined for greatness. I didn't see it in myself at first but after hearing those words, I knew I was going to be someone to spark a change.”
The BPS Valedictorians Luncheon was first held at the Parkman House in 1999. Its success has enabled the event to grow to a larger venue to include BPS families, staff, and partners from Boston’s higher education, business, and philanthropic communities.
The biographies for the valedictorians of the BPS Class of 2019 follow:
Another Course to College
Jessica Pelaez of Brighton
Jessica Pelaez is a true leader at Another Course to College (ACC). She is the President of the National Honor Society, Student Council Senior Class Representative, member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, plays soccer and runs track, in addition to holding a part-time job outside of school. Jessica and her twin sister Jennifer are the youngest of eight children in their family, raised by their mother, who emigrated to Boston from Guatemala. Jessica will attend Boston College this fall as an Environmental Science major.
Boston Adult Technical Academy
Sonilisa Teixeira Cardoso of Dorchester
Sonilisa, affectionately called “Soni” by her peers, is originally from the vibrant and colorful island of Fogo, Cape Verde. Soni has had a remarkable high school career while at Boston Adult Technical Academy (BATA) for the past two years. Soni has not only worked hard to make great progress in her English language skills, she also dazzled the school community with her theatre performance. Soni’s ability to remain motivated and persevere in the face of challenges will no doubt enable her to make her dreams a reality as she seeks a post-secondary career.
Boston Arts Academy
Jonah Barricklo of Jamaica Plain
Jonah is a theatre major at Boston Arts Academy (BAA) who moved to Boston from the Bronx in the summer of 2017. He quickly found a new home at BAA, where he has grown both as a student and as an artist. He loves to sing, dance, and act and has been in musicals such as Memphis, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Godspell. Jonah has earned a full academic scholarship to Emerson College where he will major in musical theatre.
Boston Community Leadership Academy
Angie Patricia Mejia Holguin of Roslindale
Angie is a shining star who prefers to lead by example rather than words. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she is mindful of the challenges facing people with a similar background. Determined to give back to her community, Angie volunteers at a local food pantry, plays for the girls volleyball team, and holds a part-time job, all while maintaining a 4.89 grade point average (GPA). Angie will attend Northeastern University on a full scholarship.
Boston Day and Evening Academy
Stefanie Pimentel Cannon of Dorchester
Stefanie grew up surrounded by family members who work in the medical profession and she is determined to carry on the legacy. Stefanie earned a perfect 4.0 at Boston Day and Evening Academy. Her goal is to become a nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital or Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Boston Green Academy
Ronylson DaSilva Barbosa of Dorchester
Ronylson came to Boston from Cape Verde when he was 12 years old, and he says that learning English was his biggest challenge. He has been a steady, committed scholar since entering Boston Green Academy in the 9th grade. He loves playing soccer, and last year he received the Most Valuable Scholar-Athlete Award from the Boston Scholar Athletes winter intramural indoor soccer program. He plans to attend UMass Lowell in the fall and is considering a career in engineering or business.
Boston International High School
Carolyn DeJesus Martinez of Hyde Park
Carolyn moved to Boston from the Dominican Republic three-and-a-half years ago and has truly distinguished herself as student at Boston International Newcomers Academy (BINcA). She’s an active member of her School Site Council and has won several awards as a member of the Debate Team. She’s also a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council. Carolyn has a passion for computer science, and introduced the Girls Who Code program to BINcA. Carolyn earned a full scholarship to Wesleyan University.
Boston Latin Academy
Alex Tran of Dorchester
Alex excelled academically in the most demanding curriculum available at Boston Latin Academy, taking six AP courses and five honors courses. He attributes his drive in school to the influence of his older brother, who has encouraged him along the way. In his free time Alex enjoys playing the flute and being active in his community of St. Mark’s parish. Alex has earned a full scholarship to Northeastern University.
Boston Latin School
Joana Avrami of South Boston
Joana is lifelong resident of South Boston who has attended Boston Latin School (BLS) since the seventh grade. A true scholar and budding leader, Joana is a devoted member of the BLS Symphonic Band and after-school tutoring program. She also served as co-president of BLS YouthCAN, an organization that educates students about sustainability and climate change. Next year, Joana will attend Harvard University where she hopes to explore her passion for the classics and environmental science.
Brighton High School
Thanh-Vy Dac of Dorchester
Thanh-Vy immigrated to the US from Vietnam just two years ago. She immediately enrolled in the ESL Summer Academy at BINcA to prepare for Brighton High School. With a weighted GPA of 4.73, Thanh-Vy still finds time for extracurricular activities. She is a member of the YMCA Achievers Program, interns at Massachusetts General Hospital, and volunteers at the American Red Cross Food Pantry. Thanh-Vy plans to study biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the first member of her family to attend college.
Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Damilola Adetunla of Hyde Park
Dami’s dream of becoming a doctor began in his native Nigeria where his family experienced healthcare inequality. Here in the U.S., Dami was surprised to learn that many Black and Latino people also have limited access to adequate medical care. Dami has earned a full scholarship to Northeastern University, determined to pursue a medical career.
Charlestown High School
YuanYuan Du of Chinatown
Originally from China, YuanYuan first struggled when she entered Charlestown High School as a sophomore because of her limited English skills. But her hard work and perseverance paid off. She has consistently earned high marks, is a member of the National Honor Society and even competes in the Charlestown High Debate League. YuanYuan also volunteers in her neighborhood of Chinatown, teaching women computer skills. YuanYuan will be the first in her family to attend college when she enters Tufts University this fall.
Hudeline Dolce of Hyde Park
Hudeline is a strong, independent, and resilient young woman. Despite many challenges, and working full-time, she has persevered and pushed herself to succeed and graduate from Community Academy. While undecided in her future plans, Hudeline has demonstrated that she is prepared for whatever may come her way.
Community Academy of Science and Health
Kaydean Tomlinson of Mattapan
Raised in Jamaica, Kaydean and her two siblings joined her mother in the US after five years of separation. She has made a big impact at Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH), serving as co-captain of the varsity volleyball team. Kaydean also piloted a new Student Leadership Initiative program in which students are paired with teachers to provide support, similar to a teaching assistant. Kaydean will attend Framingham State University where she plans to major in biology and pursue a career in the medical field.
Dearborn STEM Academy
Lenylse Ferreira of Dorchester
Originally from Cape Verde, Lenylse is extremely motivated and passionate about her education. Over the past four years, Lenylse has completed a service trip to New Orleans; college courses at Duke University, the University of Michigan and Wentworth Institute of Technology; and participated in the Minds Matter Boston mentoring program. Lenylse is headed to Boston College where she plans to study biology in hopes of becoming a medical researcher.
East Boston High School
Sabrina Ruiz of East Boston
Sabrina grew up in East Boston and has taken advantage of the many opportunities available at East Boston High School. She’s participated in both indoor and outdoor track, as a freestyle swimmer for the swim team, and as a member of the debate club. Outside of school, she fulfills her passion for the arts through the nonprofit organization Zumix. As a first-generation college student, she is ecstatic to receive the Boston Valedictorian Scholarship from Northeastern University.
The English High School
Jingsi Li of Jamaica Plain
Jingsi Li was born in China and immigrated to the US at the age of 7. She has been an active participant in the Visual Design and Communications Pathway program which has allowed Jingsi to hone her graphic design and photography talents. She is one of the school’s leading event photographers, taking extra time out of her already busy schedule to document extracurricular activities and special occasions. Jingsi will attend UMass Boston this fall as a first-generation student with a Beacons Merit Scholarship.
Excel High School
Gamael Chalvire of Mattapan
Gamael is a passionate, dedicated, and motivated individual who deeply values education and her native Haitian culture. She has immersed herself in the Excel High School community, participating in a number of clubs and activities such as JROTC, National Honor Society, and as a tutor and mentor. Gamael will attend Salem State University where she plans to study immigration law and become a social justice activist.
Fenway High School
Alexa Lopez Ledesma of Hyde Park
Alexa was born and raised in Boston in what she describes as a “large and loud Latino family,” one that always “has her back.” When she’s not hitting the books, Alexa enjoys traveling and binge-watching her favorite Netflix series. Fortunately for Alexa’s family, she’s not going too far — Alexa has earned a full scholarship to Northeastern University.
Greater Egleston High School
Bialexis Peña of Jamaica Plain
In addition to being a dedicated student, Bialexis is an avid swimmer who is enthusiastic about teaching others to swim, serving as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the YMCA. Bialexis is still weighing his options following graduation but is prepared for a bright future ahead.
Henderson K-12 Inclusion School
Joselyn Carvalho of Dorchester
Joselyn is a friendly and energetic young woman who puts her all into everything she does, whether its academics, debate, her involvement with the Center for Teen Empowerment, the Grub Street writing program, or volunteering at school events. Every week Joselyn volunteers in the before-school programs for students in the lower grades at the Henderson K-12 Inclusion School. She is also passionate about visual and performing arts and will enroll at Lesley University in the fall.
Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Mohamed Abanoor of Roxbury
Mohamed has been a member of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing family since he was 3 years old. Mohamed has excelled in everything he has set out to do. At school, he has served as student representative in the School Site Council, president of student government, and captain of the boy’s basketball team. Mohamed delights in helping others and making positive contributions to his communities. He has been a Police Explorer in the Boston Police Department, is a current member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and is also a youth mentor with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Mohamed will attend Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, and plans to pursue a career in political science.
Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers
Alvin Morales-Giron of East Boston
Alvin has spent his entire academic career in BPS, attending the Donald McKay for elementary school and the Mario Umana Academy for middle school. Alvin has continuously challenged himself with AP courses and most recently by taking dual enrollment courses at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Outside of school, Alvin is a passionate soccer player. Alvin will attend Dartmouth College majoring in pre-med with a goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.
Mary Lyon Pilot High School
Julien Marcuse of Brighton
Julien is known as the go-to "tech guy” in the Mary Lyon community. He has practiced coding since the age of 8, and won first place in the city-wide science fair and earned several awards. His legacy at Mary Lyon will be his shenanigans, his love for learning, and his home-baked goods. This fall, Julien will attend Champlain College where he plans to study computer science
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School
Fatuma Hussein of South Boston
Originally from Kenya, Fatuma is a student in the Nursing Assisting career technical education program in the Allied Health Department at Madison Park. She will attend Northeastern University in the fall on a full scholarship.
McKinley Preparatory High School
Special Joi Brown of Dorchester
Special is a hardworking and motivated student who may seem quiet and soft-spoken but isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Special completed a three-month internship with Jewish Vocational Services Boston during her junior year and participated in the dual enrollment program at Roxbury Community College (RCC) during her senior year. Special is preparing to enter the Boston Bridge program at RCC and plans to transfer to a four-year college to earn her bachelor’s degree in the medical sciences.
McKinley South End Academy
Ariel Ramsay of Jamaica Plain
Ariel has been a student of the McKinley schools since the third grade. She has overcome numerous barriers throughout her young life but has benefited from the numerous supports at McKinley, resulting in her academic and social emotional success. Following graduation, Ariel plans to enter the workforce in the field of construction. She has expressed an interest in returning to school to pursue a degree in counseling and eventually join the professional guidance team at the McKinley schools to pay it forward by mentoring and guiding young people.
Margarita Muñiz Academy
Steffani Castillo of Mattapan
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Steffani is an active member of the Muñiz community. She has been a member of the debate team, a peer leader, a member of the school band, and a math tutor. Steffani is also part of Summer Search, where she learned to sail and studied at Brown University. She also worked as an organizer for the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing. Steffani will continue her studies at the Honors College at UMass Boston.
New Mission High School
Danelia Gossop of Mattapan
Danelia grew up in Jamaica and lived in Kansas before moving to Boston. These experiences have given Danelia a unique perspective on life and made her determined to become the best version of herself. Confident but humble, Danelia is characterized by her teachers as a brute force in the classroom. This model student and future leader has earned a full scholarship to Dartmouth College.
John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science
Hurryrea Hea of Brighton
Hurryra’s parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh, instilled in their children the value of education. Hurryra is an accomplished scholar who is always challenging herself. Last year, she joined the Boston Debate League with no previous training and won her first debate. Hurryra serves as president of the O’Bryant’s Muslim Students and Allies Association. This extraordinarily well-rounded young woman plans to attend Boston University.
Josiah Quincy Upper School
Kamaiya Austin of the South End
Kamaiya has been a Josiah Quincy student from kindergarten through grade 12. She has challenged herself to enroll in the most demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) program courses available at the Josiah Quincy Upper School (JQUS) and is a candidate for the IB Diploma. Kamaiya has a long list of extracurricular activities, is a member of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University, and maintains a part-time job. Kamaiya has the distinction of being the first Black female valedictorian in JQUS history. Kamaiya is headed to Tufts University where plans to major in education.
Muriel S. Snowden International School at Copley
Gina O’Brien of South Boston
Gina is another “home grown” BPS student. She attended the Warren Prescott K-8 prior to entering Snowden, where she is an IB Diploma student. Gina cares about her community and the changing environment. She hopes to become a doctor and assist those who need medical care in other countries. Gina has earned a full scholarship to Northeastern University.
Tommy Nguyen of Dorchester
Tommy is the oldest child of a tight-knit family who strives to be an example to his younger brothers. He has taken multiple honors and AP courses and is always willing to help his classmates. Tommy is a quiet leader who is not afraid to ask questions and drive change in his community. He is passionate about computer science and will continue his studies this fall at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Urban Science Academy
Yonalis Rosario Perez of Roslindale
Yonalis grew up in Roslindale and has attended BPS schools throughout her educational career. She is the last of three siblings to graduate from Urban Science Academy, where she earned a 4.27 GPA and is a member and secretary of the National Honor Society. Yonalis received a full scholarship from UMass Lowell, the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, and a four-year scholarship from the Student Success Jobs Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she serves as the senior representative. She plans to major in biology and eventually become a physician.
West Roxbury Academy
Winda Durand of Dorchester
Winda’s family immigrated to the US from Haiti after they lost everything in the devastating 2010 earthquake. At West Roxbury Academy, Winda participated in many extracurricular activities such as the debate team, Artists for Humanity, the soccer team and the student newsletter. Winda says participating in extracurricular activities has taught her the importance of teamwork and helped her develop confidence outside of her comfort zone. Winda will attend Suffolk University where she plans to study political science and hopes to later attend law school.
Watch this video to learn more about the 2019 BPS valedictorians, including their plans for the future and advice for fellow students.