Seeing my older sibling attend a private school, I have always dreamt of the day when I would follow in his footsteps towards higher educational opportunity. In my first attempt at reaching my goal I was waitlisted, then referred to Beacon. I knew that my one chance to bridge the educational gap between my previous school, and the rigorous Belmont Hill was Beacon. I came into Beacon as I normally would to a new year of public school, overconfident, thinking I was automatically the smartest in the class. But I did not know what I was stepping in to. This was not public school at all. As the year progressed, I began to understand the culture of hard work and determination around me, leading me to aspire to this norm. If it wasn’t for Beacon, I don’t think I would have learned the value of hard work and dedication. I would have instead continued to get by without studying and by spending 30 minutes on homework per night, while focusing on sports or hanging out with friends. This year has changed the course of my life. I have never worked this hard ever in my years of school. At my previous school I would get to sleep from 9:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m., but at Beacon 9:30 p.m. is now more like 12:00 a.m. I have realized how the doors to great opportunities depends on a great education and many sacrifices. While this year has been a great challenge for me, I could not have done it without the help of my coach Ann Ryan, my advisor Ms. Jones, my family, and all of my classmates for continuously pushing me through this demanding year and always being by my side through this long journey. I would also like to thank my teachers for seeing my potential and always holding me to a high standard even though I might have been lazy at times. I will truly miss Ms. Mitchell saying, “Oh muffin” and always making the class laugh and smile. Thank you everyone for the amazing school year. More great memories are yet to come. I am Albert McField, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Many people talk about their academic growth that occurred during their year at Beacon Academy, but to me Beacon is so much more than just a 14 month program to hone your work ethic and prepare you for independent schools. I always looked at Beacon Academy as a place for me to grow as person. As my eighth grade year came to an end, I had a strong feeling that I wasn’t ready for high school. Not just academically, but individually I knew I was not prepared to take the next step. I don’t know what it was about Beacon’s aura, but I just had a gut feeling that I would make the growth that I needed. And surely enough, my teachers and my classmates broke me down to the lowest point I have ever experienced. I picked up all of the broken pieces, and mended them back together, but it was not easy at all. These 14 months consisted of countless long, draining days and nights of tears, disappointment, and hurt. All of my life I have gone to predominantly white schools filled with affluence, so I tried to resemble those whom I was surrounded by so I could fit in with the group. For that reason, when I came to Beacon people perceived me as two-faced, disingenuous, or thought I was always trying to impress the teachers. This year, I learned to stop trying to resemble the groups I am around, or only displaying certain sides of me depending on the time and place. Throughout this entire year, I have been learning to be myself, at all times 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I learned to do that regardless of whom I am with and to never let the norm or what is conventional affect who I am or how I act. So, thank you Beacon! For all of your support, your drive to make each and every one of us better, and your devotion. I appreciate every ounce of effort, consideration, care, and sacrifice you all have put into this year. And thank you, to all of my classmates for being real with me and reminding me that I do not have to be anybody besides myself. I am Anthony Christopher Wright, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Ever since I was born, my only aspiration in life was to become a professional soccer player. I had a reason though. When I was enrolled in elementary and middle school, I was not fond of academics, and therefore, school for me was not appealing. I would wake up, go to school, and finish the day by playing soccer; the cycle kept continuing. The one person, except my father, that I admired the most was Lionel Messi, a great soccer player. As corny as it sounds, I genuinely wanted to be like him. That doesn’t matter anymore because, quite frankly, Beacon has changed the way I see the world today. That being said, the most powerful, influential, and great motivators that are in this room today is who I aspire to be. Going from being a young myopic kid to becoming a mature and responsible young adult is all that I can ask for. Beacon has truly changed my life and I will be forever grateful for that. But most of all, I will never forget what Ms. Laba did for my mom and me. If it weren’t for the teachers, staff, tutors, volunteers, and students, I don’t know where I would be today. Thanks to Beacon, I now love learning. I am Brian Barrera, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Before Beacon I was scared of speaking to new people because I believed that they were judgmental and that I wasn’t capable of fitting in. I remember our final trip in the summer, to Martha’s Vineyard. I wanted to be placed with people whom I had somewhat gotten to know over the summer: Tara, Hadear, and Zoe. But, I got placed with Yeabsira, which wasn’t as I had imagined it would be. It wasn’t that she was mean or anything; it was just that I didn’t quite know her as well. We got to stay with Rachel at Candy Jenkins’ house. At first, we didn’t really speak to each other, but at night we got to know each other and I began to think: “Wow, she is actually not that bad.” I tell you this not to inform you of what a nice and amazing person Yeabsira is, but to share instead that this was the moment that I realized that other people weren’t actually all mean and could be trustworthy. It was the moment I started speaking more to my other classmates and became slightly more social within the class. This experience also helped me become more vulnerable at Westwoods, with a little encouragement from the teachers. I told them that my cousin had died a week before the school year had started and I felt vulnerable, but relieved because I had gotten it off my chest. I also realized that when they told us in the summer that being vulnerable with your classmates helps you become closer. This turned out to be true. I then realized that I wanted to become closer to these unique individuals. I am really grateful for everything I have done and learned during this Beacon year, and I know that I will carry this with me in the future and beyond Beacon. I am Destiny Montero, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Every year I am reminded that a new year equals a new me. On March 10, 2017 I received rejection letters from both of my dream schools. My second year in a row of disappointment and rejection led me to give up. I decided to stop everything that I was working for, everything I wished and wanted. Then another email popped up in my mom’s inbox and a call from Beacon Academy sounded like my alarm for 5 a.m. An opportunity was right in front of my face. My heart yearned for me to apply and try, but my mind said no. I was mentally and physically tired from seeing the words “I’m sorry” and “we regret to inform you”. In the end I decided to attend the open house that completely changed my perspective. As soon as I walked into the development office I was greeted with smiles and conversations I wished to engage in. People were interested in knowing me and wanted to develop an understanding of who I am. During my Beacon year I have learned two important things– listening and being candid in everything I do. Not to speak at someone but to speak with them as a team. I have learned to appreciate everyone I have interacted with and use my experience as an advantage. I have learned that there is always another way and I have to take lunges at what I want. Nothing will come easily, but if I believe in the process everything will work out. Thank you mom for waking up at 5:00 a.m. everyday so I would be on time. Thank you Beacon for preparing me to walk across LCA’s stage in 2022. Thank you to my classmates for pushing me past my limits. I am Gabrielle Vionide Buissereth, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
I remember how scared and hesitant I was to just raise my hand in class. I would avoid eye contact with my teacher so they wouldn’t call on me. This routine in school went by smoothly for a while. Math was always a subject that frustrated me, so it was easy for me to just give up. English was a subject that I enjoyed because I could read anything of my choice. And for Writing, I always love to write book essays and data-based questions but there was something missing in my writing but I never knew what that was before. Until I came across this place. A year ago from today, I was sitting where you are, listening to the Class of 2017 give their speeches. As I was watching, I was also thinking about how I was going to explain to Mr. Nett after about my summer plans to go to the D.R. I was also thinking, “Why am I here?”, and, “What am I getting myself into?”. Sure, everyone’s speeches were powerful and were making me tear up, but I didn’t exactly understand how this one year program could be so important to them. Now, I am the one standing here and telling you my story. And I can honestly say this, despite all of the work that I was given, I enjoyed every second that passed. Ms. Mitchell, because of you I can genuinely say that math is fun. Ms. Yu-Phelps, even though over 400 vocabulary words seems like a lot, thank you for helping me widen my daily speech. Mr. Nett, you made me realize what I was missing in my writing. I never had the chance to write about myself. Without you, I would have never written about my past and received recognition for it. Thus, me not being able to reflect on who I was before and who I am now. Thank you Mami, for battling your protectiveness by thinking about what’s best for me, for saying “okay” even when you wanted to say “no”. This is not just a one year program. This is Beacon Academy. Also known as, my second home, and the place where my life really did change. I am Genesis Valdez. Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
The first day of school was different from any other— it was in the summer. People were dropping like flies. This evoked fear in me; I wanted to stay. If I wanted to continue to stay I had to work hard and that’s what I did. Beacon doesn’t change you into a new person; it only changes you into a better version of yourself. I understood that being shy was part of me, but I couldn’t let that stand in the way of me speaking up for myself. I opened up to my classmates about my life, how I grew up with a single mother who fought and risked her life so that I could be part of hers. My biological father laid his hands on my mother, traumatizing her, and he sent me away to Morocco when I was an infant. Not wanting to take care of me, he sent me to live with his parents until I was 4 years old and then my mother came to get me and we ran away to a domestic violence shelter in Plymouth. This was all so hard to tell to my class and I remember the day so clearly. Within the summer we were given a project to do; on the outside of the box we had what people saw us as and on the inside it was how we saw ourselves. Our box project was probably the most vulnerable I have ever been; however, I had an amazing support system— my classmates. I knew that Beacon was the key to that locked door. I can’t believe that time flew by so fast. And now at the end I am here to collect that key to open that door to continue the new beginning. I am Hadear Rizq, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
First, I want to thank my family. My advisor Sarah Smith, my coach Clark. my previous teacher Ms. AP- and the rest of my Beacon family, teachers, and students.
Beacon has shown me the beauty in the world, and Beacon and has taught me how to look at it from many angles. It all began with putting our phones away and taking a look outside at nature. Beacon has educated me with so much information, shown me how to educate the world, tell them my story, and share my ideas. My first time ever writing an address on a letter took place at Beacon, a skill so simple, yet many can’t do. Reading The New York Times in the morning has become a tradition and a lifestyle because it is important especially for children like us to pay attention to the world. Beacon has created a never-ending chain reaction, a family of brains, kids willing to change those stats we see on the news and I am honored to join and be a part of it. Beacon has taught me to be mindful and keep pushing in situations even when the odds are against me. Living in a poor neighborhood with a myriad amount of assistance from the government, life is not supposed to happen in my favor. Almost 14 years ago I was born a refugee in Kenya. I’m not supposed to be here, on my way to an elite boarding school, but I am, and I will strive for nothing but greatness. Next year I am attending The Putney School an opportunity for something different and special. I am Ibrahim Sidow Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
I never thought I would end up where I am now. When I look back a year ago my life seemed like it was going south and it felt like that was where it would continue to go. I did not know who I was anymore. I wanted to be the strong young lady who everyone believed I was, but inside I was a kitten: afraid of everything that was going on. When I came to Beacon, I wanted to believe that this school could really change my life by exposing me to new things, like rowing and skiing, but it seemed too good to be real. I knew it had changed people’s lives and that it was a very challenging school. But since I am being honest, I will tell you that at the beginning I wanted to come to Beacon not because I saw it as an opportunity to go to a better school but rather because I saw it as an escape from everything that was going on in my life as a ward of the state staying with a foster family. But as the year went on, I started to see that when I worked hard I would do well, and I slowly started to believe. Beacon was my home from the beginning of the year, but I didn’t know that until I was faced with a hard decision. I could stay at Beacon or go with the foster family I wanted. The decision was tearing me apart and now that I look back at it I see it as a test. Because had I not been given such a hard decision I would not have realized how much Beacon meant to me. I started to work harder to show my teachers that I was capable of living in Salem, with the family I wanted, and staying at Beacon too. I talked to my coach about it all the time, and she told me to go with my heart. The problem was that my heart wanted both Beacon and the family. To make a long story short, I ended up choosing the family that I wanted, Chelsey and Jon Aldrich, and I was able to stay at Beacon. I stayed but I doubted myself a lot, and Mr. Nett was able to see that so he would always say, “Don’t doubt yourself, Jenni,” but I still did because I didn’t think that I could do much, and I questioned everything I did. Now, when Mr. Nett and Mrs. Smith told me that I would be applying to Winsor I laughed. I could not believe that they thought I could be one of the few students who were accepted to the school. But I applied. I did my best in the application because I could not give up for the simple reason that I doubted I could get in. I thought a lot about the school and how amazing it would be if I could actually be accepted. Well, those dreams and fantasies that I formed while I sat on the train or at night lying on bed might become a reality because after all I was accepted to the school. After all, I was capable of being one of the few girls who were accepted, because I have become a Beacon student. I learned many lessons this year, one of which is not to doubt myself. Chelsey, Jon, thank you very much for being there for me throughout this year and for finding a place or me in your family. And Cathy, usted tenía razón, cuando se trabaja duro buenas cosas pasan. I am Jennifer Isela Vega, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Wow, I can’t believe that I am standing here in front of everyone including my friends and family. I can remember when I was 4 days late to the summer session and I thought wasn’t going to last a week here. But here I am now. If I can remember correctly, we were at our first Westwoods retreat, and we were just starting to get to know each other. I can remember Ms. Laba saying that she hates shy girls, and if you were shy she was basically saying, “there’s the door”, “see you later”. After hearing that, I knew I had to change, but I didn’t go through this alone. My classmates and my amazing teachers were there to make sure I wasn’t being shy anymore and I was talking a lot more. They all have made a major impact on my life and they also helped me find a new version of myself. These opportunities I have now, going to a private school, getting a good education, meeting new people, I just never imagined that I would have something like this. Now, I have a lot more confidence and I am no longer a person who just sits there in my classes and listening to what other people have to say. I can say what I want to say without worrying about being judged. Thank you very much for this amazing opportunity. I am Laylanie Linette Matos, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
I want to start by thanking Mrs. Smith, our program director and my former guidance counselor, for introducing me to this beautiful opportunity named Beacon Academy, which has changed my life. I love you. Beacon Academy is one of a kind. Beacon is demanding. It demands all of your time and energy twenty-four seven. During my time here, I have learned many crucial things that will assist me in the long run. I have learned the difference between what is important in life and what serves as a distraction, how to interact with educated people, and how to be an upstander. I also learned what it truly means to be Beacon. I even learned how to speak English the right way. At Beacon, I was able to express my feelings safely without getting ridiculed because Beacon is much more than just a typical school; it’s been our home and our family for the past 11 months.
Growing up in a lower-class family, I did not receive everything that I wanted or what a normal child is supposed to receive and I unfortunately did not live the childhood that I always dreamt of. Because of Beacon I now have the tools to make my dream a reality for my future kids and give my family the best life possible. I do not think that I am ever going to experience anything as special as Beacon again. I want to thank all my teachers and tutors for making me a more confident student and person, and I also want to thank my coach, Kate Anderson, and her husband, for opening their home to me and for believing in me and motivating me throughout this rigorous year. I couldn’t have done it without your support. And to my parents and family here… And now looking back on the year, I have realized that all the sleepless nights, sacrifices, and stress were well worth it. I am Liliano Pires Rosa and we are Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Beacon has been my most life changing year so far. Because of Beacon, I have become more social, intelligent, hard working, and curious. This year I faced my fears, pulled many all nighters, spoke up, marched, and did many more things I would never imagine myself doing. I went from being a kid with no personality, to being called the professor of the class. One thing I would like to mention is that one of my favorite topics this year was poetic devices and I have a simile for everyone here today. The process of Beacon is like making a sandwich. The students start by pulling themselves together and deciding to come for the summer; which is like grabbing the bread for a sandwich. Then the year continues and it is all up to the students. What I mean by this is, the teachers give us all the resources we need so the amount of effort we all put into Beacon is the amount we receive at the end. If you decide to work extremely hard and learn everything; the outcome is a load of knowledge, a great school and a head start for next year. Figuratively, The teachers give us the condiments, ham and cheese, then and it’s up to the students to make the actual sandwiches. But, if you don’t try your hardest and take the easy way then, you will be left with a wasted year and, figuratively, a dry sandwich. I would like to thank my coach, Kevin Parke, and Beacon for everything; coming to Beacon was the best decision of my life. I am Neil Mendez, Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Recently I have noticed that Beacon gives you purpose. It brings forward a drive that makes you want to focus on your education. A lot of people have dreams but we don’t have the drive to push us to work hard to accomplish them. That glance that Beacon gives you of what your future can be is amazing. It feels surreal to be standing in front of this crowd when in the summer if it were the same situation I wouldn’t be able to get any words out. But most importantly I’m grateful for those beautiful teenagers sitting there. Throughout this experience we have gotten to build a relationship based on trust and love. We are afraid to cry in front of each other if it’s necessary…Thank you to all Beacon faculty and Beacon people that have been there for us and have made this program possible. I am Anyela Nicole Heredia Garcia Beacon Class of 2018!
My Beacon year was the hardest year of my life; however, I can also say, I experienced many victories this year. This year was rigorous; I would wake up at six o’clock a.m. and get back home around nine o’clock p.m. Then I wouldn’t go to sleep until around 12 a.m. Then the next morning I had to come to school ready to learn and try my best to pass all the quizzes. At Beacon I was sleep deprived, but Beacon also came with a world of fun and new experiences. We got to see what affluence looks like. We got the opportunity to experience Martha’s Vineyard. We had the opportunity to do a two-day overnight trip with Showa, we got the opportunity to skiing. Let’s just say we did many things at Beacon. All these experiences opened many doors to society I would have never gotten unlocked. But now since I had the opportunity to see what was behind those doors, I don’t want to stop working hard until I have gotten to see all I can. Also everything I have done with Beacon exceeds the expectation of a low income colored kid. Beacon helped me live above society’s expectations of a kid of color. Beacon set me up on a path to success and I am not willing to stop working hard till I reach me success level. Also I will like to thank everyone who helped me this year. My tutors Shirley, Polly and Don. Also people who worked close to me like Bob Martin, Nick Chapman, and Kate Anderson. Last but not least – I would like to thank my family for also believing in me. I do this for them. My drive to succeed comes from them. All this hard work will pay off. Thank you everyone and I am Salah Shueb Maalim Beacon Class of 2018.
I think I’d be absolutely lost if I never came to Beacon; I wouldn’t have ever had the chance to be accepted to any private school or have the luxury of going as a boarding student; I wouldn’t have to suffer through grueling academics that wear me down for a year; I wouldn’t have ever faced my inner struggles or overcome them. Being here at Beacon has been an almost surreal experience to have; I would never give it up for anything else. Yes, the work you put in is important, your honesty, sincerity, communication skills, are important; however, your feelings and emotions matter just as much. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled through self-esteem and body positivity issues. I didn’t know how to address any of these insecurities or know how to overcome them, so I simply hid them and locked them away in a box so they’d never escape; I wouldn’t have to worry those who are close to me; I wouldn’t have to gain pity or sympathy, because I knew that I’d just feel worse. Maybe if I acted alright or put on a facade I’d feel better. Whatever I did or thought I knew before was thrown out the window at Beacon. I remember the confrontation, the anxiety, my classmates’ and teachers’ eyes on me, the truth wanting to desperately burst from my throat, but not even knowing where to start. At this point I knew hiding it was impossible, so I finally decided to do something I never knew I would thank myself for doing– I spoke.
Even now these insecurities have never been completely expunged from my mind; I still find it hard to say I’m beautiful in my own way and can still spot so many imperfections in the mirror. But, I know that I don’t have to go through this alone. I can learn to simply be me. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing support from everyone at Beacon for showing me how big the world is and how beautiful it can be; I want to give a special thank you to Madame J. and Monsieur Don for being wonderful French teachers and sparking my love for the French language. Je m’appelle Tara Nguyen, Je suis Beacon Academy Class de 2018.
Good afternoon ladies and gentleman.
I’ve written this first sentence over and over again, and in reality there is no perfect way to begin to describe my experience at Beacon. Beacon Academy has sometimes felt like a boot camp, it has sometimes felt like military training, but Beacon Academy has always felt like home. When I first entered Temple Israel, I thought Temple Israel would just be the place where would go to school, the students here would just be my peers, and Beacon Academy would just be my school. Wow was I wrong! Over the past 11 months, Temple Israel has become my home, the people here have become my family, and Beacon Academy has become my haven. Every day, I commuted from Lawrence about 5 hours to get to Beacon and yes, it has been hard and yes, it has been exhausting. However, every single part of it has been worth it. These people make it worth it. When I walk through Beacon’s doors I know that I am surrounded by people who love me, people that care for me, and people who believe in me. At Beacon I have grown; at Beacon we have grown. I’ve seen them transform into smart, driven, and amazing human beings. Together as Beacons we dance, we laugh, we cry, and we love. I want to thank you guys for being the most perfect group to go through this amazing journey with. I also want to thank my friends from back home that texted me “good luck” before every SSAT. Thank you for always being there. Mami y Papi, thank you for being my biggest inspiration. Thank you for waking up at 4:30 every morning and picking me up every night at 10:30 because you believe in me. Matiko, Melody, Chelsea, Patty, Mike, thank you for opening your home to me time and time again. But most importantly I want to thank Beacon, thank you for giving me a second chance. Thank you for unexpectedly coming into my life and making my dreams and my ambitions yours. I want to thank you for not only giving me the best education I can get, but giving me another family and giving me an experience that I will always carry with me. I am Valerie Rosario Beacon Academy Class of 2018.
Good Afternoon, Today is Sunday, June 3rd. Today is national chocolate day if you didn’t know, but it is also national Beacon Day. I do not know what to say being up here. To be honest, I did not think that I would ever graduate from Beacon. But today standing here I would like to talk about how Beacon has not only changed my life but has also shaped me to become a better person. This year Beacon has made me proud of who I am. I am proud to be an immigrant who came to this country looking for a better future and is willing to do anything for her dreams. I am a female who is determined to fight for her beliefs and fight for justice when the time comes. I am black, but I will never let that define me; instead I will let that drive and motivate me to go above and beyond in life. All these qualities make me proud of who I am, and I will never to be ashamed to admit them. But also I am beyond grateful for the people in my life. To my dad, Abbty, thank you for every single sacrifice you have made for me because everything you did was for me. You gave up your dreams so that I could live mine. You are the reason why I did Beacon, and I know that you live through my dreams. Abby, I know it wasn’t not easy giving up everything you worked for, but you did it in a heartbeat and never ever once complained. Every day you waited for me at the bus stop and early in the morning you woke me up when I was too exhausted to get out of bed myself. To my teachers, every quiz and every test made me stronger, even the ones that I may have failed. To Mr. Nett, thank you for being the best advisor and also making me realize how much I love to run. Also Mr. Nett, thank you for helping to make my dreams come true. Thank you to my coach, Deedie, my tutor, and the many others who have contributed to my success. To Don, Zoe and I still haven’t figured out the math problem you have given us. To my classmates, thank you for being such amazing, brave, courageous individuals whom I was so lucky to have known for these 14 months. I was so fortunate to hear every struggle, to watch every moment of success, and to be able to see all of you every day. As I go on high school, I will take a part of each and everyone of you. Standing in front of you and giving my speech was a dream, but it is now my reality. I am Yeabsira Mitiku Gugssa, Beacon Academy Class of 2018!
Looking back on this school year, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Every tear that dropped from my face and every feeling that I have felt this year has made me stronger. This year was my first year having to leave my comfort zone. Being shy or quiet did not exist at Beacon. Prior to my year at Beacon, I went to a school where I was bullied by people who were supposed to be my community. I was never accepted for how I looked or had friends that would make my school days easier. At Beacon, I am no longer enclosed in a box of negative energy. Here, I have people who care about my success and are not planning my downfall. This school year, I finally gained a feeling of confidence. From small things like speaking to Ms. Laba or raising my hand in class to speaking in front of hundreds of people at a Temple event. I would like to say thank you to Ms. Laba for making me start my Beacon application and to my coach for being my second mom during this extraordinary year. Also to my brother for being a wonderful role model and someone I aspire to be. I would lastly like to thank my mother for being so strong this year while going through the most stressful situations on her own, and I would like for you to know that I will always be here. I will never be able to thank Beacon enough for the things they have done for me. I am Zoe Umeh. Beacon Academy Class of 2018.