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Beacon Academy

Beacon Academy serves low-income students living in Boston and surrounding urban areas. Most (80%) of our students’ families live below the poverty level and the remainder of them live just above it. They don’t always have money for food, often experience instability in their housing, and are plagued by job insecurity. Of our 247 graduates and 22 current students, 57% are Black, 28% Hispanic, 9% Biracial, 3% Caucasian, and 3% Asian. 140 are female-identifying and 129 are male-identifying. Most students become the first in their families to finish high school or complete college, and many break multi-generational cycles of teenage parenthood and adult poverty. In short, Beacon students represent the most underserved Boston residents; yet they have the grit, talent, and determination to change the trajectory of their lives.

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Four Beacon Students Awarded Boston Globe Scholastic Writing Award

photoThe halls of the MFA buzzed with excitement and pride Saturday morning as families from across Massachusetts came to celebrate this year’s winners of the Scholastic Awards for Art and Writing. Tickets in hand, four Beacon students, Tyreece Jeffreys, Priscilla Singleton, Blessing Uchendu, and Ceili Lemus, accompanied by family members, walked past glowing Picassos and Magrittes on their way to the awards ceremony.

Inside the packed auditorium, parents browsed advance copies of Sunday’s Boston Globe, which featured an article about this year’s Scholastic Awards. A brass band from the Berklee College of Music kicked off the ceremony. Then, in a video presentation, poet Robert Pinsky and artist Nan Freeman encouraged the audience of young artists to continue sharing their talent with a wide audience.

When the emcees proceeded to read the names of award winners, tiny screens lit up the dim auditorium as parents eagerly captured the moment of their kids walking across the stage to accept their award. A few art teachers in the crowd clicked away on old-fashioned cameras.

Following the ceremony, Tyreece, Priscilla, Blessing, and Ceili met next to the museum’s airy café. A woman beside them paused near the pastry case and told her son about the summer when she lived in Paris and ate nothing but pain au chocolat and went from a size zero to a size eight.

The Beacon winners smiled and joked with each other as they donned their silver keys. “I feel like Katniss,” Ceili said, making sure her pin caught the light. The four squeezed together for pictures.

On their way out, the Beacon students picked up their jackets and backpacks from the coat check. Wearing their silver keys—small reminders of their artistic talent—Tyreece, Priscilla, Blessing, and Ceili headed off to study hall, just a few blocks over, at Simmons College, where they would prepare for another week of rigorous classes.

They wrote their winning pieces at various points during the school year. Ceili penned her personal essay after running in a cross-country invitational; Tyreece wrote his poem in response to a Facing History discussion; and Blessing and Priscilla composed their pieces while studying narrative essays in Writing class. Winning the award gave them a new outlook on their work. “When I write, I usually feel like I’m alone,” Priscilla said, “but at the MFA I felt like I was part of a group of people with the same passions. The energy made me want to keep writing.”