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The Civic Scene: Queens HS seniors get pre-graduation honors

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As the days of June slip along toward the end of the school year and seniors look ahead to graduation, Queens high schools are holding many assemblies to honor the accomplishments of their students. These events are prior to regular graduation because if they tried to present awards in the large high schools on graduation day the ceremonies would take four or five hours.

Thomas A. Edison Vocational and Technical High School held its Senior Class Awards Assembly on the evening of May 29 in the school auditorium. More than 150 of the proposed candidates for graduation were honored for academic, vocational, technical and sports accomplishments, as well as community service and student government activities. All of the other schools will have these special assemblies prior to the actual graduation.

The high schools also will have end-of-year sports dinners, where the athletes are praised and presented with awards for their specific sports accomplishments. Since our high schools often have extensive athletic programs these dinners are large happy affairs. Many of the students are considered scholar athletes and receive scholarships from many different colleges and universities. All students who participate in school athletics must meet minimum academic requirements.

A school such as Hillcrest, which has an extensive Health Career Department with approximately 500 students studying to be practical nurses, medical assistants, EMT/First Responders, dental technicians and child care assistants has to cap those students who have met all the necessary requirements and passed the rigorous New York State Examinations, so the school held a separate Capping Commencement in the auditorium on June 17.

It is an interesting ceremony with each health field student wearing a different color uniform, designating his or her specialty, going to the stage to receive recognition for having passed a very difficult state-regulated program. This reminds me of a huge aircraft carrier where each technician on the flight deck wears a different color uniform so it is known who is responsible for each specific job.

A Francis Lewis graduation also is an interesting ceremony because the school has a large Junior Reserve Officers Training Program (JROTC) and the students are attired in their dress uniforms and look military. The presenting of the colors by a military color guard is an interesting spectacle.

The actual graduations at our large and small Queens high schools take place at the end of June when all the tests and regents have been graded and entered onto the students’ records. It is very interesting to look at a graduation program and see all the awards, repeated from the Senior Awards Assembly Program, and note all the awards so many have won. Then there are the scholarship winners who usually are listed on a separate page or two.

Depending on the size of the school and the specialty or special programs, many students often win four-year scholarships worth $20,000, $50,000 or $80,000, offered by every conceivable school of higher education. Our Queens high schools have much to be proud of and should receive more recognition than they usually do.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

As I write this column in the middle of June, the state Assembly, state Senate, governor and mayor of New York City have not finished working out the power structure for the NYC Board of Education, the final money package and the wording of the teachers’ contract. Everything seems to be interrelated this year. This means that prospective teachers still do not know what they will be getting into if they decide to work for city schools.

It is uncertain as to whether enough teachers will commit to the city with so many questions unanswered, as well as whether there will be enough money to provide summer classes for students, and mentoring and orientation classes for new teachers as they start their first day, or if this money will be available in October, as happened last year. I wonder if the expensive books will be in the classrooms when students arrive. There are too many questions!

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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