‘I’ll always be thankful’
They demand attention, pull at the heartstrings and are guided by imagination.
Wherever they appear, the students of the Lehigh Valley Charter HS for the Arts excel at personal expression, and their own graduation is never an exception.
Welcoming their families with Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” and a haunting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner under the spotlights at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown June 11, the school’s students – and now graduates – earned their accolades and degrees.
Student speaker Grace Rosario set the tone for her classmates of building a reputation that will exist beyond them. “As the first freshman class of the new Charter Arts building,we quickly adopted a passion of creating an environment and community that would inspire a passion in others that would set a precedent for incoming classes.
“From major bonding events such as the infamous Charter Arts Halloween to our schoolwide production of “Evita,” that year we made sure we’d be expanding our collaborative, supportive and inclusive culture for the remainder of our high school career. The environment we helped to shape and mold alongside our supportive teachers and mentors brought to life the love and opportunity for expression that make Charter Arts such a beautiful school to call home.
“Art is uniquely concrete and abstract. It allows for a deeper connection to oneself and to others, for personal expression and passion. At Charter Arts we learned to connect to each other and ourselves.”
One of those connections was the Color Clash, mentioned by nearly every speaker that evening. A first-of-its-kind yearlong activities competition between classes, which were assigned colors based on the word “ARTS” from the school logo, Color Clash included events such as a door decorating contest, T-shirt sale and lunchtime penny collection. The senior class won, earning a picnic and donating its $500 raised to Second Chance Ranch animal rescue in Quakertown.
The excitement with which Color Clash was cheered sounded like the bonding experiment was a great and fun success.
But the spirit of community didn’t stop at the walls of the new building.
CEO Diane LaBelle explained the school’s growth and involvement beyond its doors. “This is the largest class of graduating seniors in the history of Charter Arts – 153 of you – and you are the first class of seniors who began your careers and finished your careers at our new school in South Bethlehem.
“You were part of 92 performances and exhibitions that appeared in the gallery, and at the ice rink, as well as the stages of the theater, the commons, and the Black Box. I love that you also showed your commitment to being part of the community by sharing your talents at Godfrey Daniels, The Lodge, Hotel Bethlehem, SteelStacks and Touchtone Theatre.
“Truly you have helped Charter Arts become the best of the best. And surely you are the best of the best. For the over 85 percent of you who have enrolled in colleges and arts conservatories, I want you to know that collectively you have collected $3.3 million in scholarships and grant aid to attend some of the country’s most prestigious colleges, universities and arts conservatories.”
Board President Mario Acerra proudly added additional accolades; Three previous graduates had recently been interviewed for Northampton Community College media student projects, and the school was named a 2018 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.
Class speaker Michael Scuotto said, “I’ll always be thankful to Charter Arts for teaching me the meaning of community. I was constantly challenged to reassess what I stood for and what I was working toward. I was never torn down with the feedback I received; I was picked apart and given the tools to build myself back up.”
Concluded Scuotto, “We didn’t just get a diploma; we got firsthand education at being our own people. We got a broader sense of purpose, and a finely-tuned sense of ourselves. And most importantly, we got a family. Thank you Charter Arts, it’s been totally awesome.”