BOSTON — Tuesday, May 30, 2017 — Thirty-eight high school valedictorians from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) hailing from 11 different countries were honored today at the 19th Annual BPS Valedictorians Luncheon at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill, and BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang recognized the valedictorians during the ceremony for their incredible achievement.
“Our tremendous valedictorians truly enrich all of our communities and are role models for other young people in what they can accomplish,” said Mayor Walsh. “The achievements from our valedictorians are remarkable — more than half will be the first in their families to attend college, and many recently immigrated to the United States. No matter what obstacles these students faced, they thrived. Congratulations to all valedictorians, and I look forward to seeing where your dreams take you.”
This year, nearly three-quarters of the valedictorians are female and nearly half were born outside of the United States. Fifteen of the valedictorians have been BPS students since kindergarten; and 61 percent will be the first in their families to attend college.
“As we begin our graduation season when we celebrate all of our graduates, it’s great to take a day at the beginning to highlight those who rose to the top of each of our high schools,” said School Committee Chairperson O’Neill. “We stand in awe of these students, including those who overcame great obstacles to attain this accomplishment.”
“I congratulate all of our valedictorians today on earning this great honor,” said Superintendent Chang. “To become a valedictorian, it takes a relentless drive and steadfast perseverance. You make the Boston Public Schools proud.”
Maybelline Perez Villatoro of East Boston High School provided this year’s Valedictorian’s Address. This year’s valedictorians plan to attend Northeastern University, Fordham, Tufts, Brandeis, Boston College, and several other colleges and universities.
The BPS Valedictorians Luncheon was first held at the Parkman House in 1999. Its success has enabled the event to grow to a larger venue to include BPS families, staff, and corporate and community partners.
The Boston Foundation, Eastern Bank, Shah Family Foundation, and Steward Healthcare were co-sponsors of the ceremony. Any proceeds will benefit the City of Boston Scholarship Fund.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh shakes hand with East Boston High School 2017 Valedictorian Maybelline Perez Villatoro at the BPS Annual Valedictorian Luncheon.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh shakes hands with Natan Santos, the valedictorian of New Mission High School’s Class of 2017, while Superintendent Tommy Chang (right) and School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill (left) look on.
The biographies for the BPS Class of 2017 valedictorians are as follows:
Another Course to College
James Nguyen of Brighton
James is an active member of the Another Course to College community, where he is a member of the Running Club, Community Service Club, and the BUILD entrepreneurship program, where he manages his own business with his fellow classmates. He’s a passionate member of ACC’s Robotics program, where he builds, wires, and programs robots for competitions. The sky’s the limit for James, who will attend UMass Dartmouth this fall.
Boston Adult Technical Academy
Jhovana Correa Marin (Valedictorian #1)
Jhovana was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia. She immigrated to the United States four years ago to pursue her dream of attending a university and study engineering. She has been a model student, participates in a dual enrollment program and holds a full-time job. After graduation, Jhovana will attend Pine Manor College.
Boston Adult Technical Academy
Woodlyne Neptune of Hyde Park (Valedictorian #2)
Woodlyne arrived from Haiti just two year ago. At BATA, she has studied hard to learn a new language and culture in her pursuit of a high school diploma. Her long-term goal is to attend medical school. She plans return to Haiti one day to give back to the people who helped her growing up. Woodlyne will continue her journey at Bunker Hill Community College.
Boston Arts Academy
Kaila Gibson-Okunieff of Jamaica Plain
Kaila began dancing at the age of six at Boston Ballet School in Newton after being recommended by an ice skating coach. At BAA, she focused on improving her modern dance and ballet techniques, and participated in a dual enrollment program with the Boston Conservatory. Next year, she will continue her mastery of dance at the Alvin Ailey’s BFA dance program at Fordham University.
Boston Community Leadership Academy
Vy Pan of Dorchester
Originally from Korea, Vy credits the Boston Debate League with helping her improve her language skills and build her confidence. In addition to being an accomplished debater, Vy is a member of the National Honor Society, a community organizer, and earned second place at the Boston City Calculus Competition. Vy plans to study Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University, where she has earned a full scholarship.
Boston Day and Evening Academy
Masiah Jones of Roxbury
An aspiring teacher and biologist, Masiah has been working as a teaching assistant at BDEA since her graduation last December. She also just completed a first semester of classes at Quincy College. This fall, she will transfer to UMass Boston where she plans to major in Biology.
Boston Green Academy
Carmelissa Norbrun of Dorchester
Carmelissa came to Boston in 2012 after surviving the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Intelligent, respectful, and always kind, Carmelissa will graduate with a weighted GPA of 5.0. She has been deeply involved with Boston University Upward Bound and Summer Search and plans to become a doctor. Carmelissa is headed to Gettysburg College as part of the Gettysburg STEM Scholars program, where she will be the first person in her family to attend college.
Boston International High School
Jesuina Lopes Fernandes of Dorchester
Since arriving in Boston from her native Cape Verde, Jesuina has overcome many hurdles. She is now a shining star at Boston International, where she is active in student government, the girls’ soccer team, and as a member of Model UN. Jesuina has emerged as a tireless worker who inspires everyone around her strive to be better. UMass Boston has the good fortunate of welcoming this amazing young woman this fall.
Boston Latin Academy
Tuyet Pham of Dorchester
When she was two years old, Tuyet’s family moved to the U.S. to provide her with more opportunities. She chose to take the most challenging courses BLA has to offer, and then joined other programs outside of school to learn more. She’s always positive and loves to help her peers. She will be the first in her family to attend college and is excited to be attending MIT where she plans to study her passion: computer science.
Boston Latin School
Nathan Han of Boston
Nathan’s teachers describe him as an “intellectual powerhouse.” He has taken nine Advanced Placement classes and has participated in science fairs at the school, city, state, national, and international level. Using statistics, computer science, and biology, he is working to identify potentially cancer-causing mutations ahead of time and assess genetic predisposition. His goal is to speed up cancer diagnoses in a less costly and more efficient way. He is also headed to MIT.
Brighton High School
Sacdio Ali of Jamaica Plain
Sacdio is one of eight siblings. Since arriving from Kenya three years ago, she has maintained a draw-dropping 5.2 grade point average. She also serves on the Student Leadership Team, promoting positive change at Brighton High. Sacdio plans to study child development at Tufts University, and she will be the first in her family to attend college.
Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Zoraya Scott of Dorchester
Zoraya is a well-rounded student. She participates in cheerleading and softball, serves as vice president of the student council, and completed a summer internship at State Street Bank – all while reaching the top of her class. Zoraya has accepted a full scholarship from Boston College, where she will pursue her studies in pre-med.
Charlestown High School
Jiacheng “Tony” Zou of Dorchester
At the age of 17, Tony came to the United States from China with a zest to learn. He’s president of the National Honor Society and is taking three AP Courses. He earned a perfect 800 on the math SAT, but has a flair for liberal arts and is passionate about social justice. Tony has earned a full scholarship Williams College.
Paul Davis of Dorchester
Paul is a role model at Community Academy because of his academic perseverance and consistent attendance. He has worked exceptionally hard academically to become valedictorian, earning the Honor Roll throughout the year. Paul is still weighing his options for after graduation, but we know his future is bright.
Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH)
Thomas Thermidor of Hyde Park
Born and raised in Haiti, Thomas began his BPS career as a 9th grader at CASH. He has challenged himself by taking five Advanced Placement courses, as well as a Computer Science course through a dual enrollment program at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Thomas is also captain of the soccer team captaining and has performed hundreds of hours of community service. This fall, he will attend Union College in Schenectady, New York as a part of the prestigious Posse Scholars Program.
Dearborn STEM Academy (celebrating its first graduating class)
Melisa Depina of Dorchester
Melisa moved to Boston from Cape Verde five years ago in pursuit of more educational opportunities. She has already completed four college courses and is a member of the National Honor Society. Last year, Melisa traveled to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for a week-long service project and completed a summer internship at State Street Bank. Melisa is also a POSSE Scholar; she will be joining Thomas at Union College.
Ronald McCluskey of Dorchester
Ronald hails from Dorchester, where he enjoys writing music, reading, and doing computer programming. He plans to pursue a career as a computer programmer.
East Boston High School
Maybelline Perez Villatoro of East Boston
Originally from El Salvador, Maybelline is passionate about Public Service and Social Justice. She serves as president of the National Honor Society and is a Student Immigrant Movement leader. She hopes to motivate other young Latinas to aspire for higher education. Maybelline is a recipient of the Northeastern University Valedictorian scholarship, and she plans to study Political Science and International Affairs.
The English High School
Cristian Rodriguez Salas of Dorchester
Cristian came to the Boston Public Schools from the Dominican Republic four years ago, determined to learn English and challenge himself academically. He has earned straight A’s, participates in the Robotics Club and enjoys graphic design. Cristian is a member of the STEAM Pathfinders, where he has trained at least 50 BPS parents on how to use ASPEN, and has taught middle school students how to build robots. Cristian will continue challenging himself at Suffolk University. He will be the first in his family to attend college.
Excel High School
Kevin Duong of Dorchester
At a young age, Kevin’s family instilled in him the value of education, and he has been making them proud ever since. A straight-A student with a heavy course load, Kevin still finds time to participates in many extra-curricular activities, such as JROTC, Recycling Club, Math Club, Debate Team and Boston CARES. Kevin will attend Northeastern University where he plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
Fenway High School
Manuel Martinez of Roslindale
Manuel sees education as a tool to better the world. As a first generation American, he does not take his opportunities for granted and wishes to create access and opportunity for others as an immigration lawyer. Manuel is a Crimson Summer Academy Scholar, presented a business proposal at The National Council of La Raza in Orlando, and is the recipient of the Valedictorian Scholarship at Northeastern University. He will continue his studies at Northeastern University.
Greater Egleston Community High School
Lizbeth Palermo of Roxbury
A resident of Roxbury, Lizbeth worked extremely hard to reach the top of her class at Greater Egleston. After graduation, she will attend Massasoit Community College, where she plans to major in film and media. Her long-term goal is to become a film director.
Henderson K-12 Inclusion School
Chanda Carvalho of Dorchester
Chanda was raised in Boston by a single mom, who is disabled and speaks only limited English. With her big sister’s guidance and her mom’s support, Chanda has earned top grades and serves as President of the Best Buddies chapter at the full inclusion school. Chanda will be the first person in her family to go to college. She will attend the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and plans to become a pediatrician.
Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Ivy Chow of the South End
Ivy has been a model student throughout her career at the Horace Mann School. In addition to her academic and leadership accomplishments, Ivy has been the captain of the Girls Basketball Team. After graduation, she will attend Gallaudet University in Washington DC where she is the recipient of a Gallaudet University Academic Recognition Scholarship Award.
Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers
Daniela Brea Baez of Roslindale (Valedictorian #1)
Daniela began her journey in the STEM Field as a high school freshman through Project Teach, a program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has continued on the STEM path as a Mass General Hospital Youth Scholar and has partnered with Tufts Medical School to study the effects of Gentrification on the Dominican Community of Boston. She is currently in a dual enrollment math class at Wentworth Institute of Technology and has earned a 4.6 GPA. Daniela will attend the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College where she plans to major in Animal Science.
Kennedy Health Careers Academy
Juliana Pereira of Jamaica Plain (Valedictorian #2)
Juliana is also enrolled in a dual enrollment math class at Wentworth Institute of Technology and has earned a GPA of 4.6. She has participated in the Drama Club Harvard University’s Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University and won first place at the City-wide Science Fair. Juliana has earned a full-ride to Northeastern University where she plans to major in Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Mary Lyon Pilot High School
Alaina Villanueva of Fenway
Alaina was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. Despite this challenge, her persistence and determination toward her love of learning paid dividends. She was the recipient of the Mayor Thomas M. Menino School Spirit award in 2013 and she is currently a member of the National Honor Society. She hopes to work in the healthcare profession as a therapist. This fall, Alaina will attend Emmanuel College.
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School
Taija Reverdes of Roxbury
Taija has excelled in the Health Assisting / Certified Nursing Assistant vocation at Madison Park. Her positive attitude has helped her connect with her patients in nursing homes and in her co-op experience at a local community health center. She also participates in RoxMapp, a dual enrollment program with Roxbury Community College. Taija has earned many scholarships, and will attend UMass Dartmouth, where she plans to study biology as she pursues becoming a midwife.
McKinley Preparatory High School
Rosaisela Melendez of Dorchester
Rosa is creative and loves music and the arts. She has consistently shown dedication to her studies and has taken advantage of everything McKinley Prep has to offer. She will begin her college career at Bunker Hill Community College and hopes one day to transfer to Berklee College of Music to study the violin.
McKinley South End Academy
DayRamond Anderson of Dorchester
DayRamond Anderson is a star student at McKinley South End Academy. Loved by staff and students alike, he sets high standards for himself and works hard, putting forth great effort to reach his goals. This young man’s success is even more impressive because he has navigated through some tough adversities. DaRaymond is currently in a job training program sponsored by Jewish Vocational Services, and will be employed at an assisted living program in Dedham. He plans to work full-time after graduation.
Margarita Muñiz Academy
Brenda Hernández of East Boston
Born and raised in Mexico City, Brenda moved to Boston at the age of nine. She credits SquashBusters with teaching her the skills to succeed in high school and beyond. She’s grateful to her teachers at the Muniz for their unconditional support and encouragement. Brenda will attend the College of the Holy Cross.
New Mission High School
Natan Santos of Hyde Park
Natan credits his participation in the Harvard Crimson Summer Academy with shaping him as a leader and a scholar. He often stays up past midnight to complete his studies, accepting nothing less than an A. He still finds time to participate in the High School to Teacher Program, the Mayor’s Youth Council, and the Student Success Jobs Program. He also started his own clothing line, Son of King, which he created to inspire young people to realize their own potential and to be kings and queens in their own right.
John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science
Silvia Yu of Back Bay
Silvia has attended Boston Public Schools since kindergarten. At the O’Bryant, she’s a member of the tennis and swim teams, and has continually challenged herself with AP courses. Silvia spends her afternoons as a junior counselor at the Chinatown Afterschool Program, tutoring and mentoring younger children. She’s also participated in service-learning trips to Arizona and the Dominican Republic. Next stop on Silvia’s educational journey: Wellesley College.
Josiah Quincy Upper School
Dara Sostek of East Boston
Dara is a self-professed bookworm with a gift and passion for creative writing. Her dad read to her as a young child and encouraged her to write her own stories. In the fall, Dara will attend Northeastern University as a Valedictorian Scholar. She plans on double majoring in English and Communications.
Muriel S. Snowden International School
Rayceiry Sanz of Dorchester
Rayceiry struggled academically in elementary and middle school. That all changed when she entered Snowden, where she met friends and teachers who saw her potential and believed in her, even when she did not. With the help of her family, friends, teachers and staff, she managed to work her way to Valedictorian, a position she never imagined possible. Rayceiry will be the first in her family to attend college. She is headed to Northeastern University.
Daliyah Middleton of Dorchester
Daliyah is incredibly motivated young woman who takes advantage of any opportunity given to her. Through the Noonan Scholars program, she spent the summer taking English and math college prep courses at Wheelock College. She also completed a dual enrollment course during her junior year. Through the Student to Teacher Program, Daliyah is able to work with a cohort of other students who are interested in becoming teacher. She is also captain of the volleyball team. Northeastern University has the honor of welcoming this young lady next year.
Urban Science Academy
Lantharra Langlois of Hyde Park
Originally from Haiti, Lantharra has challenged herself by taking five AP courses and participated in an internship with Brigham & Women’s Hospital. She has also provided over 400 hours of community service and is an active member of USA’s student leadership council and president of our National Honor Society. Lantharra will attend Brandeis University where she plans to major in neurobiology as prepares to become a doctor. She will be the first in her family to attend college.
West Roxbury Academy
Jakelin Yasmin Bonilla of Roslindale
Jakelin has thrived since immigrating to the US from El Salvador in elementary school. In middle school, she received the Mayor’s award for academic excellence, and has steadily improved academically through her hard work and determination. After graduation, she will attend Suffolk University, where she plans to major in Psychology.