It had all the trappings of a regular high school graduation, but for close to 300 seniors from schools across Westchester, the SWBOCES Center for Career Services recognition ceremony June 15 was the end of an enlightening two-year journey.
It was a journey that not only expanded their skills in an array of career and technical disciplines, but also prepared them for further study at two- or four-year colleges and for employment in a broad range of multi-faceted industries.
The close to three-hour ceremony, held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, began with an introduction from Center Director Dahlia Jackson followed by a greeting from salutatorian Francisco Orozco, a graduate of the Pre-Engineering Program, and a student reflection from Addy Velez, valedictorian and graduate of the Security, Law & Policing Program.
Both students attended New Rochelle High School.
“We are all beginning a new chapter in our lives and starting to build our future,” said Addy, who will attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the fall. Her eventual dream is to become an FBI agent.
This year’s guest speakers included previous graduates of the Emergency Medical Services Program, who spoke about the merits of the program and how it has impacted their success in the real world.
The speakers were: Malik Barnett and Maria Cardenas, both 2012 graduates of New Rochelle High School; Ariel Hilario, a 2015 graduate of Sleepy Hollow High School; Christopher Leak, a 2015 graduate of Pelham High School; Malachi Marshall, a 2011 graduate of Woodlands High School and Brian Usher, a 2011 graduate of Hastings High School.
District Superintendent Dr. Harold Coles urged the graduates to remain honest as they go out into the world.
“You will face forks in the road,” said Dr. Coles, telling the students that when they reach such obstacles, they should have the integrity, honesty and moral character to face them.
In his keynote presentation, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino urged the graduates to put their newfound skills to good use.
“Many of you are eager to get out there, to get the chance to immerse yourself in a career, to work hard and to make a good living,” he told them.
“And you know what that makes you? That makes you a great citizen. By preparing yourself for the workforce, you’re also setting a great example for other young people by demonstrating that going into a trade and perfecting marketable skills puts you in unique position to succeed in the job of your dreams.”
As is customary each year, the TV/Video Production Program showcased its “Student Voices” video, which included commentary from a wide range of students on their experiences in various BOCES programs.
The event included the presentation of various student awards, as well as awards to educators who have worked with and for BOCES over the years, including the Anne Gargan Memorial Plaque, which was presented to Dr. Barbara Ferraro, superintendent of the Rye Neck School District, on behalf of the family of Dr. Anne Gargan.
Dr. Gargan served as an educational consultant to BOCES until her death last month.
Jeanette Kim, assistant dean for High School Partnerships at Westchester Community College, was also honored for her collaborative work with BOCES on the Early College Experience Program, which has enabled students from seven programs to gain early college credit.
Long-time culinary instructor Gerry Murphy was also honored for his 37 years of service to BOCES. His co-workers in the Culinary Program, Chef Peter Tomaskovic and Chef John Damiani, spoke fondly about their experiences working with Mr. Murphy.