Leaving When You've Already Left UPA’s SENIOR class of 2020 celebrates graduation via youtube video

Reporting by Vidya Achar, Reporter.

Photos courtesy of UPA Awards, the YouTube channel where the video was released.

Arielle Rose-Finn opened the ceremony with a melodic version of "The Star Spangled Banner."
In his welcome speech, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Matt Daugherty acknowledged that “setting the tone is a little bit more difficult with everything that’s going on right now.” “Seniors, we’re here to celebrate you and to honor your accomplishment,” Daugherty said optimistically. “I want you to feel proud and feel the love pouring out of these speeches, videos and all the other ceremonial elements we’re presenting to you in whatever format we’re presenting it.”
Echoing Daugherty’s hope for a better future, Executive Director David Porter told graduates that the UPA community has faced obstacles before and will continue to learn from every obstacle it endures in the future. He is hopeful that circumstances will improve and recognized the accomplishments from students. “In the short time that I’ve been at University Preparatory Academy, I have seen more generosity of spirit, purposeful actions driven with an intense passion, the strength that comes from facing rigorous learning experiences together and the courage of a society tied together for a common purpose but built from a diversity of cultures, backgrounds, religions and perspectives,” Porter said.
After Porter’s speech, Chairman of the Board at University Preparatory Academy James Romero introduced the founders of UPA and went on to express his confidence in UPA’s students. “UPA has given you a special gift that you will use throughout your life and we are so very very proud of the milestones you have accomplished,” Romero said in his parting message.
Next, one of the founders of UPA and COO of the Cathedral of Faith, Kurt Foreman, explained the founding message of UPA. He explained how people doubted UPA at first, but concluded that “UPA and its students made the impossible possible.” “Three key ingredients: love, passion and commitment” are the secret ingredients to UPA’s success, he professed. “During these unprecedented and tumultuous times, let us take to heart and live out the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that.’ And that 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
Then, Hannah Van Gelder sang a soulful rendition of "Your Song" by Elton John.
Following Van Gelder’s cover of “Your Song,” Spanish teacher Aimee Verapinto shared a few words on behalf of the Class of 2020. She started with a direct address to COVID-19, calling it “selfish” and acknowledging the opportunities seniors lost because of the virus. Nonetheless, she remained positive. “...As I look around this room, and more relevantly reflect on our years together, I have a deep faith your commitment to surpass all things unacceptable or mediocre will continue to be your calling day in and day out.” Verapinto said.
Aaron Janse, class valedictorian, gave a heartfelt speech recounting happy memories of the last four years, including how the class of 2020 has helped each other grow and will look back on these memories fondly. Janse said “I hope we find passions that complete us, and I hope that, like Mr. Porter, we fill those around us with joy.”
Kevin Tong, class salutatorian, walked through high school year by year, remembering hardships the class of 2020 faced and pushed through together. “2020 was the sickest year we’ve ever seen. But I’m proud to say that, after blood sweat and tears, we’ve made it through. We are now graduating despite all of these struggles and obstacles and we'll go down in history as the never-forgotten class of 2020,” Tong said.
Adanna Abraham-Igwe debuted an original song about holding onto memories even when times get tough. “That’s why we celebrate the journeys that we had, the moments good and bad,” Abraham-Igwe sang in a powerful voice.
“Jack and I, as well as our peers, know that the class of 2020 is a giving class,” Paolo Dimacali said. Dimacali and his partner Jack Grzegorzyk then announced the Senior Class Gift. “On behalf of the senior class of 2020, we will be purchasing not one, but two beehives,” Grzegorzyk said. Dimacali then explained their significance. “These gifts from our class will not only serve as a gift to the community, but as a symbol of one of the strongest and most resilient classes of modern times. It will symbolize how, similar to the bees, we all worked together, supported each other.”
“Signs are used for a variety of reasons: to convey information, to protest or, in this case, to celebrate your graduation,” Director of Student Services Andrew Yau said. Yau applauded the graduating seniors for working hard through all of high school and through a pandemic.
After a musical introduction by Kevin Tong, Ariana Rodriguez and Loren Schwinge introduced the Class of 2020.
Finally, the graduates announced their next steps after leaving UPA, many stating the colleges they will be attending in the fall.
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Vidya Achar