Amelia Sanchez gave the keynote address at Concord High School’s graduation ceremony this year. What makes this an amazing story is that she graduated from the College of Staten Island only weeks earlier.
Amelia worked as a student teacher at Concord, a public transfer high school for students who have struggled in traditional high schools, while earning her degree in Adolescence English Education at CSI.
Amelia’s achievements may perhaps be the best way to highlight the importance of transfer schools and CSI’s commitment to student teaching and community outreach because not only has Amelia taught at Concord, she is also a graduate. “Amelia is a wonderful example of how teachers can give back to the communities from which they come and she has served as such a fabulous role model for the students at Concord that Principal Ron Gorsky saw it was fitting that she be the one to address the graduates,” said CSI Higher Education Associate Deirdre Armitage, commenting on the impact Sanchez has had on her students.
“Students like Amelia thrive in our supportive culture that students call their family,” added Concord High School Principal Gorsky. He also went on to discuss why he chose Amelia to be this year’s keynote speaker. “Amelia had been an inspiration to many students this year. Working individually, in small groups, and teaching whole-class lessons in her ELA classroom, she was always sharing a piece of her story. She became a role model for future success.”
In her address, Amelia, who was accepted into CSI’s fast-track program in special education for adolescence, admitted to being a “rebellious teenager who would get dropped off at school and sneak out the back door. Mom would receive a call from the school that I was missing yet again and by the time I got home I was in a world of trouble.” She went on to talk about how she never planned on returning to high school after graduating and credited her mother for being her biggest supporter, who “never once gave up on helping me discover my full potential.”
“Concord High School not only saved me, it framed me,” she added. “I know and understand more than anyone the struggles and challenges that you have faced in making it to where you are today. Some people have looked down on you and perhaps even lost faith in you. What is most important for you to realize is that you are here today because you have faith in yourself.”
Amelia’s own road to graduation was not straightforward. She struggled through her first semester at CSI and decided, after discussing it with her mother, that working as a full-time health aide was her best course of action. After three years of attending CSI, Amelia realized that nursing was not what she wanted to pursue. After much soul searching, she switched her major to English and decided to pursue a career in education.
“At first, I laughed at the irony of choosing education as my field,” she joked, admitting that going back to school was the last thing she expected herself to do. But, after taking her Foundation courses and reaching out to Principal Gorsky, who invited her to observe and student teach at Concord, she was grateful for “the confidence Concord gave me to succeed and believe in myself.” She is now preparing to complete her master’s degree at the College and become dual certified.
Amelia concluded her heartfelt speech by offering some advice to the graduates. “Recall a time when you thought that you would never succeed…but did. As scary as that moment in time was, you overcame it by buckling down, doing what you had to do. Think of this as you are challenged by future obstacles.”