By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – Paterson Public Schools hosted their second graduation ceremony on Tuesday with students from HARP Academy, Rosa Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts, STARS Academy – TIES Program and PANTHER Academy seniors receiving their diplomas.
At the ceremony, Mayor Andre Sayegh commended the Class of 2022 for being “brilliant and resilient” as well as overcoming the struggles they may have faced and making it to graduation.
“You are the class that had to wear masks, get temperatures taken and be six feet apart,” Sayegh said. “And for all of that, all that you have experienced, you still managed to succeed and get on this field and graduate. On behalf of the City of Paterson, we salute all the scholars that are advancing and succeeding. We wish you continued success in all of your endeavors.”
The ceremony also honored the late Robert Cuadra, a senior at HARP Academy who was killed in January while helping his grandmother with groceries. Cuadra’s mother attended the ceremony and received what would have been his diploma.
“Robert Cuadra should be walking to receive his high school diploma today,” Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer said. “But instead we are honoring his memory. I welcome his mother who will accept his diploma. Robert will never be forgotten. One of the easiest ways that we can begin to make the world better is to show gratitude for the blessings we have. Keep moving forward, never stop.”
One valedictorian for each school spoke to their classmates to congratulate them and remember the memories they shared throughout their four years. They also gave each other advice for the future. The four valedictorians included: Devon Grace from TIES, Samiha Ahmed from HARP, Anderson Cruz from PANTHER and Sydney Gilmore from Rosa Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts.
“When you think you might be attending college, joining the military or whatever else it maybe be, we will all create our own purposes in our lives,” Cruz said. “There will be feelings of self doubt and times and times when we question whether it’s even worth it to keep pushing on. This is just the first of many milestones we can and will achieve.”