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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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Spring Celebration Speech – Jerry Lherisson

Welcome.

My name is Jerry Lherisson, and I am a member of Beacon Academy’s Class of 2008.  I am both honored and excited to welcome you to Beacon Academy’s Spring Celebration!

We have an amazing community of people assembled tonight. The energy, joy, and love in this room are a reflection of the hard work and leadership of this evening’s Dinner Chairs.  On behalf of all of us at Beacon, I extend a heartfelt thank’s to Janet Berkeley, Rebecca Mailer-Howat, Lonna Steinberg and the incredible members of their committee.  For those of you who are new to the room, I can say that by the end of this evening you will know Beacon well. And to start that process, here’s the quick overview and my experience with this incredible place. 

Beacon Academy is unique.  It starts with a 14-month gap year program for students before entering high school. 8th grade graduates enter Beacon that first day in July not feeling any different. But you notice a few things right away. The math seems hard. Your English teacher uses the word “rambunctious” and it flies right over your head. That is until you see it the next day on your first pop quiz. But after the learning curve, something begins to happen. You get a little more comfortable carrying that heavy backpack to the green line. You ask that one more question about Ernest Hemingway. The guys start tucking in their shirts and the girls start to use the word rambunctious, while describing YOU.

Those 14 months changes our lives.  They change how we see ourselves.  Sparks our ambition by igniting a love of learning. Gives us the skills and confidence to stay rooted in our communities, while perceiving and embracing a world beyond where we grew up. From our neighborhoods, to private schools, from professional offices, Beacon doesn’t simply give us the tools to be instruments of change, it shows us that those tools can be applied in a litany of ways. This school shows us the fundamental adage that Cindy and Marsha have been saying for 13 years: We can do better. Therefore, we will do better.

It was the most difficult year of my life, but the rigors of Beacon, in analyzing literature and poetry, learning Latin, science, mathematics, not just by the numbers, but in a way that made me see the concepts in the natural world that laid the foundation for my first job out of college at Fiscal Partners in Boston, helping to write state laws. My “Facing History” curriculum introduced me to difficult geopolitical concepts in the world and sparked my interest in policy, which lead me to my current job as a director for the Governors re-election campaign.

Our private tutoring sessions after school allowed us to dig deeper into the subjects we were taught. We could not run and we could not hide. Not from our teachers, and not from our classmates.  Most importantly, not from ourselves.  I learned that with everything Beacon gave me, it was my responsibility to take it into the world, and bring it to the next level. 

But the magic of Beacon does not end with getting an A on a pop quiz or deriving the quadratic formula. You learn how to how to tie a tie, how to swim, the proper use of utensils and etiquette for a formal dinner. You learn how to speak to adults and start to learn how to comfort others in times of need.

Beacon is and has always been a lifetime of learning crammed into a year. And that doesn’t simply produce classmates, or even a community. It produces a family. One that rejoices and celebrates the laurels of its members, mourns in times sorrow and lends a loving hand to those in need. All you have to say is… I’m Beacon — and people are ready to help. And if you are Beacon — YOU too are ready to help.  To share your professional connections with graduates.  To advise younger students on the college experience.  To mentor. To guide and prod the young Beacon’s from their first days during the summer program.

The expectations were always high. Cindy and Marsha were right there with me when admissions day came at Nobles, but the morning after, it was back to work. There were too many stereotypes to be broken and there was a higher goal than the simple matriculation into high school and beyond. And to this day, the Alumni program speaks that truth into power with its incredible work.

Each of you here tonight have or will deeply impact the trajectory of many intrepid young students and that impact will create leaders and thinkers who will fight for a more just society. Every time I stand in a room like this, I remember where it all started and how I got here. It started on a Monday in July years ago, thanks to people like you, Cindy, Marsha and countless other Beacon members who have helped me along this path. And I am proud to be Beacon.

Thank you.

And now, I would like to introduce Idalina Pina.  Idalina graduated from Beacon in 2014 and matriculated to Middlesex.  As a senior this year, she received acceptance to an impressive list of colleges including Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Holy Cross, Franklin & Marshall, Tulane, to mention a few.  I am happy to share that Idalina will be going to Davidson College’s as a member of the Class of 2022!

She received the Light of Dawn Award which is not only a great honor, but provides a generous scholarship toward college. Idalina has been an outstanding student at both and Beacon and Middlesex. She is an active member in both communities and as a fellow Beacon alumna she exemplifies all things Beacon — she is hard working, thoughtful, kind, responsible, engaged, ready to take on a bright future.

Please welcome Idalina Pina.