Graduating class bids emotional farewell at Bronx Charter School for Children
A group of young scholars is on its way to brightening Mott Haven’s future, one child at a time.
On June 23, 70 fifth-grade students at the Bronx Charter School for Children celebrated the hard work they’d done year-round, with a memorable graduation ceremony. Dressed in royal blue caps and gowns, they marched to the stage while waving to friends and family members who had come to support them.
Students performed a special song written especially for the commencement to kick off the morning event. The tune, “BCSC Funk” was fashioned after the pop hit “Uptown Funk,” but with lyrics reflecting students’ memories while attending the charter school.
Although every student took part in the singing, one student was credited with composing it.
“I just wrote it based off of all the things I’m going to miss about my school,” said Natalie Carrasquillo, the song’s composer. Carrasquillo said the heartfelt ode to her alma mater isn’t a new venture for her, as composing songs is a serious hobby. She said she will miss her teachers and classmates as she moves onward and upward to middle school.
Natalie’s father, Jason Carrasquillo, said he was not surprised that Natalie was the catalyst behind the class theme. Her creativity has shone through since she was a small child, he said.
“We’ve got piles and piles of artwork since kindergarten,” said Carrasquillo. “I’m very proud.”
The school’s principal, Denise Alexander, addressed the graduates after the performances ended, with bilingual teacher Alejandro Nolasco by her side translating the congratulatory message for the many Spanish speakers among the parents.
“A graduation ceremony is always such a very special occasion,” said Alexander, expressing confidence in her students’ future.
The K-5 school divides each class into groups of about 25, and names the groups after universities. School officials say the practice is aimed at getting the children to think about higher education as early on as possible.
Three students delivered speeches for each of the three fifth-grade groups: Jaheem Blake addressed the students of the Howard University group; Yvette Moreno was chosen to speak on behalf of Vanderbilt University; and Natalie Carrasquillo represented her UCLA classmates.
When the speeches were finished, the graduates were given “outstanding academic achievement” awards. Three students received academic excellence certificates from the state comptroller’s office, and six scholars went home with an outstanding achievement packet from the President’s Office of Education. Each packet contained a certificate and a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama.
The graduates also showed their abilities as fundraisers over the course of the school year. At the ceremony, they presented representatives from the Bronx Children’s Museum with a $1000 check, after having hosted snack sales all year long to raise funds for the organization.
“This was really a way for them to give back to the community,” said fifth -grade teacher Sara Hess, fighting back tears. “They did it completely independently.”
Hess said she had been with the same group of children since the fourth grade, and had begun looking out for them as if they were her own.
“People always told me that once I find my dream job it no longer becomes a job, and they are right,” said Hess. “They have honestly changed my life in every way possible.”