There is something really special about any school’s first graduating class and the recent college signing day and subsequent graduation at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) was no exception. Located in tiny little Rhode Island, this school bears the scars of political battles that were ultimately won because of courageous and relentless people who believe that all kids can learn. It is what is commonly known in edu-world as a “diverse by design” charter school in that it serves students from two suburban and two urban districts and brings together students from different backgrounds both racially as well as socioeconomically. I had the privilege of working at BVP for a year and a half and my own children either have attended or currently attend the school in the lower grades.
While national politicians—including our president—speak of immigrants ‘infesting’ our country, BVP is celebrating its first valedictorian in Samantha Ortiz. Samantha arrived to this country from Mexico at the age of eleven and is now headed to Tufts University where she plans to study pre-med. When asked about the situation on the southern border by local TV and Radio host Dan Yorke, Samantha admitted that it makes her sad.
It makes a lot of us sad.
David Jose, the school’s Dean of College and Career, visited the set of Dan Yorke State of Mind with Samantha and talked about the school’s mission, its diversity, and the process of getting kids ready for the next chapter. While Jose is humble by nature, it’s important to note that I’ve never seen an educator on the receiving end of such thunderous applause, admiration, and love from his students.
Jose called himself a changed man as well – and not because the seniors guilted him into getting a puppy – but because, “you never once allowed me to be anything but my best self.”
All but one graduate has plans to continue their studies in their Fall either under the RI Promise free tuition program at Community College of RI or at a four year institution. That one who isn’t going on to college? He has enlisted in the United States Air Force. And the Salutatorian, JR Stager, is headed to the United States Naval Academy.
A happy first ending to a long and hard fought story.
To watch the full episode of Dan Yorke State of Mind and hear Samantha Ortiz and David Jose in their own words, click below.
All photos courtesy of the Valley Breeze.