Breakfast honors students’ academic excellence – Natural Self Esteem

POUGHKEEPSIE – Ninety-six graduates of Poughkeepsie High School maintained a GPA of 80 or greater through seven semesters at the school. These students have weathered a global pandemic, personal challenges, family challenges, and more to beat their class. Of these, 38 were named honorary graduates — with an average GPA of 90 or more in the same seven semesters.

“It’s been really super tough for PHS students for a few years now. The fact that you’re sitting here today, after all you’ve endured, should make you feel damn proud of yourself — you did it!” said Royce-Giron in her opening remarks at the annual Senior Honor Breakfast. “You have chosen to leave the Chromebook open.”

CEO Dr. Felicia Watson told the students: “You’ve persevered and for that we congratulate you,” before urging the students’ parents, guardians and relatives to stand up. “Here in Poughkeepsie, we have dedicated parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.”
Seniors counselor Jason Conrad shared with parents, “A lot of these students pay homage to you (in their senior profiles). They appreciate your leadership, they quote you.”

Gabriella Fryer, program manager for the Hudson Valley Community Foundations, encouraged students to apply for scholarships. PHS has always been at the top of the list of students whose applications were submitted through the organization’s scholarship portal. In fact, she shared that 15 PHS seniors have already completed the application process and can apply for 147 scholarships together. 87 other students are in different phases of the application process.

“Chase the free money,” Royce-Giron encouraged the students, all planning to attend college or trade school.

As the names of the students with GPAs of 80-89 were called by Conrad, they were asked to take their seats to applause from tables decorated in Pioneer blue and white. Students with GPAs of 90-101,732 were called forward and presented with their certificates and medals for their caps and gowns.

Royce-Giron announced the students’ GPAs along with their names, but told them, “Your GPAs don’t define you. People will judge you by your work ethic and character.”

Princess Antonio-Cruz said she was proud of her achievement and now plans to attend SUNY Orange with the goal of becoming a dental hygienist.

Classmate Marc Valencia said he was “very proud” and struggling to keep his academics. “I wanted to have a better future,” he said. His enjoyment of math in high school led him to pursue accounting and economics, which he plans to study at Dutchess Community College.

best in class
Royce-Giron closed the event with the public announcement of the Best of Year and the Class of 2022 Salutatorium.

For Elijah Johnson, it’s proof that dreams come true with hard work. The best in class will attend MIT on a full QuestBridge Match scholarship.

“I feel relieved. I finally made it. … All the hard work and I achieved what I set out to achieve. I got into my dream school and stayed strong academically,” he said.
Johnson said he had goals long before high school.

“I’ve always wanted to improve my life. Education is a way of growing and providing stability in life, so it wasn’t difficult for me to stay focused,” he said, but admitted there were a few days during the pandemic when he decided to do it all to stay in bed all day.

Salutator Constance Pillsbury said it was exciting to be part of the breakfast of honor and to be named a salutator. “It’s very emotional because now we officially know,” she said.

She, too, planned to excel and stayed focused by “telling myself I could do it” and eliminating distractions by turning off her phone. “I opened my computer and kept going until I was done.”

Pillsbury thanked her classmates for all their support.

Throughout the two-hour event, Royce-Giro had words of encouragement for the students, often sharing some personal comments about how they influenced them or others. Known for breaking into tears during these events, she initially joked that she knew some students were taking bets on when she would start crying. To her credit, she lasted almost to the end. It’s that “fire, passion, commitment and tenacity,” Watson praised in her remarks.

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