Foundation Academies Class of 2022 Overcomes Challenges to Achieve Goals

Foundation AcademiesClass of ’22 stepped across the stage and into bright futures pursuing engineering, barbering, business, automotive technology, computer science, nursing, psychology and more at colleges, universities, technical schools and businesses.“This class has truly demonstrated their persistence,” said Foundation Academies  CEO Graig Weiss. “You faced challenges over the past four years, but you have persevered, demonstrated your determination, and now, here you are! Congratulations!”Mr. Weiss also applauded the resilience of FA Collegiate faculty, who coped with changing instructional plans, absences, health safety requirements and other fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. “These professionals have continued to show up because they have huge hearts and are committed to your success,” he said, calling their efforts “heroic.”Foundation Academies Collegiate Class of 2022 includes more than 70 students, all living in Trenton. Every graduating senior has been accepted into a college or university, including New Jersey Institute of Technology, Howard University, The Juilliard School, Harvard University, The College of New Jersey and Mercer County Community College among others. Collectively, they have received more than $15 million in academic scholarships and awards.“These students are making Trenton proud and proving that hard work pays off,” said FA Chief Academic Officer Sheria McRae. “I will miss each of them and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.”McRae will become Chief Executive Officer at Foundation Academies in July, when Weiss steps down after 13 years of leading the public charter school. McRae joined FA in 2010. She is a Trenton native who lives in the city, a Teach for America alumna and a former English teacher. Keynote speaker Nicole Bradshaw – FA Collegiate environmental science teacher – was chosen by class members. She urged graduates to follow their own path and remember each of them is “a limited edition.”“Be different, be loud, be proud, be unique,” she said. “Stick up for those who don’t have as loud of a voice, and never be afraid, or say you cannot do something…Utilize the resilience you have proven to have as you sit in this chair today.”Class members excel in several areas: the valedictorian pursued multiple college-level course to achieve a cumulative GPA of 4.11; a classmate is FA’s first student to attend Harvard University; another was part of a team winning a national sneaker design contest.Class valedictorian Olanyi Fernandez is attending Rutgers University to study accounting. Speaking in Spanish, she thanked her family before addressing her classmates in English.“Reflecting on my high school years, I have realized that Foundation has helped me grow in many ways,” she said. “…Just as we made an impact in our small school community, we will make even greater impacts in the new world we are entering.”John Vizhco Leon is FA Collegiate’s first graduate to attend Harvard University, where he plans to study computer science. “Where a person grows up definitely limits their opportunities –so you just have to create your own path,” he said. “Don’t follow your passion; instead, work for it. Chase something down.”Darae Grizzle was part of a team at HomeWorks Trenton that won a national sneaker design competition with a shoe celebrating Black and Brown girls in colors reflecting their diverse skin tones. She is attending Montclair State University, majoring in communications and African studies.“Black and brown women have to be heard,” she said. “…We are each different people But when we work together, what comes out is absolutely beautiful.”

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