When I first heard about Brooklyn Prospect, I was in disbelief - that the school that only seemed to live in my dreams actually existed in Brooklyn: a public, intentionally diverse, lottery-admissions International Baccalaureate school. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this community.
Great recognition is needed for the Board, Directors, Principals, teachers and staff who founded the school, past and present--making the vision a reality is no small feat. I want to acknowledge Kim Raccio, founding principal of the high school who achieved so much in a short amount of time. When I arrived, the high school was a mature, healthy, three year old with a personality all its own. The high school now has over 50 teachers and staff, 63 different course offerings, 12 sports teams, and extensive arts and after-school programs. In a year we make it to the playoffs in almost every sport, produce hundreds of personal and research projects, hundreds of service in action hours, and now, hundreds of college acceptances.
Brooklyn Prospect is marked by our uniqueness and ambition in the world of education. So few IB schools truly give broad access to rigor and critical thinking as we do. We go beyond what New York State requires for a diploma, we expect every student to take four years of almost every subject, sometimes more! So now, almost every graduate sitting before you has taken at least one IB course. Many of them sat for an IB exam. Most took more than one. Before you is a select group of 21 students who opted into the IB Diploma Program and made up our first DP cohort. They pursued a full suite of IB courses, independently wrote an extended research essay on a topic of their choice, completed CAS hours and took two weeks of IB exams in May. College will probably not be as challenging as what they went through in our program.
Class of 2016: we gather here today to celebrate you. Everything in the high school exists because of you. Your self-portraits have colored the walls. Your voices will always ring in our ears. You staff our middle school all-access after school program, run our service clubs, lead prospective students on tours, lobby for more funding in Albany, help select new teachers, and serve as valued players on almost every sports team. You started the Coffeehouse Cabaret, Model UN, Guy Code, Urban Culture Club... You are one of the most diverse, loyal, creative and united classes I have ever encountered in my entire career as an educator. You were flexible, adjusting to new policies, new teachers, rising expectations. You complained. We listened. Sometimes you felt ignored. There were tears. Sometimes you fell down. There were victories.
Your families have played a major part in this journey. They have shaped you and supported you. Families, you deserve great thanks for building this school too. You are one of the most active and dedicated families in New York City and our school benefits so much from our close partnership.
Students, your generation is coming of age in turmoil. Our world is fractured in spite of tremendous technological progress. One side is insular, fearful, ignorant. The other, inclusive, curious and inventive. But you have power as a result of your education--and it translates wherever you go. IB learners do not follow a crowd but instead use knowledge. They change the world, they do not bend to it. Remember you have created something at Brooklyn Prospect. You carry us with you wherever you go, but we are also bricks and mortar, fully staffed, here to embrace you in coming years, to reminisce and support you through your transition to college and adult life.
One of those key individuals who has helped usher you to toward the future is our next speaker, Mr. Colin Kuusisto. He founded our incredible college counseling program with the intent to give every student individualized support. Now, three years since he started, every student who has applied to college has gained admission, and according to survey results, over 90% of those students were admitted into one of their top 5 schools.
By the power vested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you the first graduating class of Brooklyn Prospect Charter School.