Celia Cruz Bronx HS of Music to Graduate First Class June 26; Ninety-six Percent Bound for College

BRONX, NY — The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music—the borough’s first and only music high school—will graduate its inaugural class on Tuesday, June 26, in Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. Ninety-six percent of the 70 graduates have been accepted to college, including public and private institutions in New York and elsewhere. Both the school’s chorus and band will perform during the graduation ceremony.

Founded in 2003 as part of the Bronx New Century High School Initiative/New Visions for Public Schools, the school combines a rigorous academic program with high-quality music instruction, which the students receive with assistance from the Lehman College Music Department. Mayor Michael Bloomberg named the school in honor of the late Celia Cruz, the legendary salsa queen.

Students have consistently surpassed all City and State targets for academics, and the Class of ’07 alone has received over $1.3 million in grants and scholarships. School ensembles have performed both locally and nationally at venues like Gracie Mansion, Lincoln Center, NYU and President’s Day 2006 in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Every year, both as soloists and with their ensembles, students receive numerous high ratings from the New York State School Music Association.

Speaking for the graduates will be salutatorian Neisha Streete, who will attend SUNY-Oneonta, and valedictorian Shavonne Bell, who will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Bell and classmate Saroya Williams won two of the five $5,000 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame scholarships awarded to New York City high school students for the first time this year. Other graduates will attend such institutions as Lehman College, City College, Queens College and John Jay College in the CUNY system; SUNY campuses at Albany, Buffalo and Old Westbury; and NYU, Niagara University, Long Island University and the Berklee College of Music in the private sector.

Keynoting the ceremony will be Dr. Ricardo R. Fernández, now in his 17th year as President of Lehman College. Dr. Fernandez is also currently the Board Chair of the American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for higher education in the United States.

Joining him on the podium will be Dr. Marlene Gottlieb, Lehman Dean of Arts and Humanities; Sandra Lerner, Lehman’s Deputy to the President for High School and Educational Initiatives; Elena Papaliberios, Local Instructional Superintendent; Marie Matias, Parent Association president; and Dr. William Rodriguez, the school’s principal.

Dr. Rodriguez, an accomplished musician whose career spans 30 years, performed and recorded with Celia Cruz numerous times, including playing piano on her 2001 Grammy Award-winning album. He currently plays with Johnny Pacheco. Dr. Rodriguez has also been the church organist and choir director at the Fort Washington Heights Presbyterian Church for 27 years. He received his master’s from Lehman and his doctorate from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
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NOTE TO EDITORS: Graduation ceremonies begin at 3 pm. Media coverage is invited. Contact 718-733-3851 or 718-960-8211.