LV CHARTER HS FOR THE ARTS ‘A rose to be cherished’
With decorated caps and broad smiles, the 149 members of the Lehigh Valley Charter HS for the Arts class of 2018 marched down the aisles of Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown and up to their seats on the stage. The June 11 ceremony celebrated the largest graduating class in Charter Arts’ history.
“You now have the joy of seeing your kids graduate from what U.S. News & World Report has proclaimed the best school in the Lehigh Valley,” Board of Trustees President Mario Acerra told parents in the audience, “But you guys already know that, because you have experienced it firsthand.”
Addressing the graduates, he said: “You are now alumni, or you will be in a couple of minutes, of one of the most special schools imaginable.”
Celebrating the 15th graduating class and the first class with graduates of the literary arts program, all speakers took the opportunity to look back at where they had come from while looking to the promise of the future.
“You are the last class of seniors who began your career in the old, windowless building next to the Wawa,” CEO Diane LaBelle reminded the graduates. “You made the transition to the new school and experienced the exciting and sometimes difficult changes that that move brought.”
She reminded the class of a few of their accomplishments, including artistic awards and acknowledgements, the 92 performances and exhibitions they participated in, the charities they volunteered for and $2.5 million in scholarships and grants the 87 percent of students continuing their education collectively earned.
“Wherever your path takes you next, whether it be school, the job force or serving our country in the military, we know that the discipline and work ethic you learned at Charter Arts will help you find success on the new path that you follow.”
Principal Carise Comstock also chose to reflect on the past and present of the class of 2018, delivering her address in rhyme. She began by reminding students of the old school and concluded by looking toward the future, leaving graduates with a few pieces of advice:
“Ask for help when you need it, take chances, be strong. Know when to swallow your pride and admit that you’re wrong. The world you are walking into is fractured and flawed, so share your passion and voice traveling near and abroad. Each of you is ready to take the world on by storm, be unique, be a light, always challenge the norm. Be safe, be professional, you know it by now. Frankly, just be you, we couldn’t be any more proud.”
In her speech, student speaker Kathleen Kunkel reflected on how she and fellow classmates broke in the new school’s theater classrooms by bursting in the door singing “La Vie Boheme” from “Rent,” and how that experience bonded them as a class and prepared her for the future.
“In ‘La Vie Boheme,’ there’s a line where they say, ‘To being an us for once, instead of a them.’ That’s my favorite line. It feels so good to say and it’s even better to be. To be us. Charter Arts has given me the honor of being among us for the past four years, and no matter what was going on in the school, we’ve all stuck through it and learned how to be us even better,” she said. “After experiencing beauty like that, I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t go out into the world and try and find meaningful relationships like that for the rest of my life.”
At this point in the ceremony, artistic directors took to the stage to announce the recipients of senior awards, who are as follows: Chloe Conahan, dance; Eva Greene, figure skating; Sydney Herzig-Deribin, literary arts; Jillian Nichols, instrumental music; Ciara Purcell, theater; Jasmine Kelly, visual art; Claudia Terry, vocal music; and Krystyna Pinel, academics.
The final speech prior to the presenting of diplomas was student Jillian Nichols. Like the speakers before her, she reflected on the class of 2018’s collective story, beginning in the old building and ending on the stage in Miller Symphony Hall.
“I’d like to begin with a story. Our story. Our story begins on Aug. 25, 2014. … We were handed a rose to remind us that no matter how scared we were, we would always be supported. That rose has since shown up time and time again, to cheer for us after performances, welcome us every first day of school, and now, to congratulate us as we embark on our next chapters. To me, this rose is the perfect symbol of what it means to be an artist,” she said.
Nichols continued, musing this question of artistry, even after students have graduated and left Charter Arts to pursue other majors in college.
“With that being said, I leave you all today simply asking you to continue. Continue to create, continue to support others in their endeavors and continue to encourage yourself. When you become weary and your petals begin to wilt, I want you to go out and buy yourself a rose to cheer yourself on,” Nichols said. “I wish you all the very best in this next chapter of your life, wherever it may take you. May you always remember that you are an artist, a rose to be cherished.”