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This High School Senior Delivered a Breathtaking Graduation Speech


(Teen Vogue)
The season for graduation speeches was about a month ago, but that doesn't matter: When James Hillhouse High School's valedictorian, Coral Ortiz took the stage that balmy June evening in New Haven, CT, she spoke of the future, anyway. To a crowd of students and their families, almost all people of color dressed in resplendent white and red, Coral, 18, delivered a speech whose fiery defiance was matched only by the love it oozed for her fellow classmates. But to truly feel the heat of Coral's words, one must first know the unique context in which she delivered them.
In a sense, it started a year ago at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church off of Orchard Street in New Haven, when the Hillhouse community accepted Glen Worthy as Hillhouse's 5th principal in 4 years. As the New Haven Register reported the theme that day was "Hillhouse lives matter," an obvious reference to the Black Lives Matter movement currently advocating social justice in the U.S more broadly. And so it was out of these revolutionary seeds that Worthy sought to correct what he heard from students as a major issue with the school: "One of the things [the students] talked about was having a voice,” Worthy said. “They felt things are being done to them, not with them.”
Though the school was trending in the right direction by the time Worthy took over, there was still work to be done. Graduation rates had risen since 2012 from around 51% to 80.4% by 2016. 2017 would be even better. When all was said and done, Hillhouse seniors graduated at a rate of 91% in 2017, a meaningful achievement and a testament to the resilience of a fearless student body.
Just as important as the fact of the Hillhouse seniors' success is how they were able to do it. To begin with, the Hillhouse Academics won three state championships. The significance of this miraculous achievement was made clear when Coral, herself, linked the athletic and academic accomplishments, telling the Washington Post in an email, "In the past four years our education was not often taken seriously and experimented on. Despite these challenges, this year we won three state championships and were able to have one of the biggest graduation rates in the state." And, of course, there were the students like Coral Ortiz, who inspired through her tireless efforts to improve her school and her community. Coral, who will head to nearby Yale University in the fall, served as a student member of the New Haven Board of Education for two years, and for one year as a student member of the Connecticut Board of Education. More at (Teen Vogue)





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