Walcott meets the graduates

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Photo gallery

Graduates toss their caps in the air. Photo by Christina Santucci
Students wear a variety of footwear to the ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addresses the students. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kandace Burns (c.) holds her daughter Anyah as she greets Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (l.) and Principal Charles Anderson. Photo by Christina Santucci
Students including Aliya Murray (c.) celebrate at the conclusion of the ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kandace Burns (with cap) is surrounded by her family. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ryan Beckford walks across the stage. Photo by Christina Santucci
Emmanuell Dorvil applauds her classmates. Photo by Christina Santucci
Valedictorian Kizanne Kelley (r.) receives a hug. Photo by Christina Santucci
Students applaud as their classmates receive awards. Photo by Christina Santucci
Chancellor Dennis Walcott brings up Aliyah Freeman to the front. Photo by Christina Santucci
Paul Simms walks across the stage to accept his phone. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kandace Burns stands for a photo with her husband Desmond Burns and their daughter Anyah. Photo by Christina Santucci
Graduate Christian Garcia (c.) accepts his diploma from Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (l.) and Principal Charles Anderson. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kierra Smith gets a hug from youngsters Raegan and Thomas Ryan. Photo by Christina Santucci
Assistant Principal Christopher Haarhaus performs a magic trick with fire. Photo by Christina Santucci

No one will ever accuse city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott of reusing a keynote graduation speech.

For the Saturday commencement services at the Preparatory Academy for Writers, one of four institutions at the Springfield Gardens Educational Campus, at 143-10 Springfield Blvd., Walcott dispensed with a speech and instead took the microphone down to where the 38 graduates sat in front of the stage.

During his address, he asked some of the green-and-white-robed students to stand up and answer questions about their dreams and ambitions.

“I love small graduations because it allows me to get down and talk directly to the students,” Walcott said.

The Preparatory Academy for Writers is a middle school and high school with a curriculum focused on writing and publishing — all students write for publication either in print or online — as well as college readiness. The school has been online at the campus since 2006.

More than 200 people were in the audience to watch the students graduate.

“All of the adults in the room and all of the adults on stage have a lot invested in you,” Walcott said.

During the graduation, students and educators alike spoke of the close bonds formed during the school year. Some described struggles they had gone through to graduate, and educators told them how much they had grown.

Academy Principal Charles Anderson said he would be telling stories about the 2012 graduating class for years to come. He said every member of the class was going to college either in the fall or spring.

“You guys made my job incredibly rewarding,” he said.

Anderson, like Walcott, also picked out some particular students to note their accomplishments. One was Kandace Burns, 18, who worked at multiple jobs, had a child and married during her years at the school.

Burns said Anderson’s acknowledgment of her made her want to cry. She said she hoped her success could inspire other young mothers.

“They can make it. They can get through,” she said.

Christian Garcia, 18, said Anderson’s telling him during that ceremony that he would be a success despite past problems affected him strongly.

“I cried,” Garcia said. “He made me cry. I hate him for that.”

The speeches of salutatorian Amanda Badal and valedictorian Kizanne Kelley focused more on the future. Badal said she was happy to have spent four years at the school.

“I’ve made some long-lasting friendships that I hope will last into my college years,” Badal said.

Kelley encouraged her fellow students to give back to the community and to believe in themselves.

“After today, most of us will leave here and go on to achieve great things in life,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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