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Congratulations Class of 2020

A message for the Western New York Maritime Charter School’s Class of 2020

The day has arrived when your time as a cadet has ended.  It certainly is much different than we envisioned it would be.  I should have known that it would be unique since you are the 13th class to graduate from our young school.  You are the last class to graduate from our Genesee Street building.  You missed your Military Ball, your senior breakfast, your senior trip and the opportunity to build countless other memories with your classmates.  However, you succeeded in making sure that every cadet in your class earned the right to be called a Maritime graduate.  That is quite an accomplishment!

My first encounter with your class was while I was on vacation in the Poconos.  My granddaughter told me that a kid she met was from Buffalo.  Of course I was curious and asked him where he attended school.  He answered that he was starting 9th grade at a small school and I had probably never heard of it.  Imagine my surprise when Anthony Jackson told me he was going to Maritime and his surprise when I told him that I was going to be his principal!  Anthony, even though you are graduating, know that every teacher here is still telling you to take your foot off that accelerator and know that if I see you speeding, I will call your Mom!

Four years have come and gone very quickly.  Many changes have occured along the way.  Naeem Baptiste became a United States’ citizen and I was able to celebrate with his family at a National Honor Society dinner.  I finally got to hear Timzania Chatmon aka Pancake's beautiful voice as she and Mariya Silvestor performed at last year’s graduation.  Tejohn, Shaukeem and Antwoin were my “in school” sons. This class has two sets of brothers: the Elliotts and the Fourbys and two sets of sisters: the Jacksons and the Robins.  I was fortunate to spend time with the Kolmetz family on our World War II trip. 

Some kids did not make it through the four years which always makes me very sad. Some of you getting a diploma made us sweat right up to the end which really wasn’t necessary and you know who you are.  We have welcomed babies and lost parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts of our Maritime family.  Through it all we have watched you grow stronger and more prepared to take on the challenges of what lies ahead.  I will never tell you life is fair but I will tell you that you are ready for your future.  You have grown from children into beautiful adult human beings.

Your class is one of the kindest classes that has ever attended Maritime.  In what has become a Maritime tradition, you stick together and have become family.  Recently our school has suffered the loss of three graduates in a very brief time and although the loss is heartbreaking, in true Maritime tradition the kids (who are now really adults) came together from far and wide to celebrate the lives that were lost and to help each other heal.  
In this time of trouble that our nation and our world is experiencing much could be learned from Maritime cadets.  They appreciate each other and look at each other with respect.  They take true joy in their classmates' successes and help power them through failures.  We are a diverse school where color does not define us.  My kids are of all colors and my color has nothing to do with the way they treat me.  I hope that as you move forward you remember your experiences here.  We need to improve as a society and the place to start is right here.  We need to take what you have experienced and share it with the world.  To quote one of our middle school students, Ms. Morgan Popp, who was also quoted by our valedictorian, her sister, Ms. Aurora Popp,  “If you want change, be the change.  It starts with you! Right here, right now!”

I wish you all success as you follow the path towards your dreams.  Remember that nothing good happens without effort but when you put your talent and effort into your dreams nothing is impossible.  I know that within this class we have the talent and the energy to make our dreams come true and make our world a better place to live in.

Congratulations to the class of 2020. You will always have a place in my heart and will be welcome to our new building as well-loved alumni.