PASS grads overcome the odds
The proud families and friends of the Wareham PASS program’s class of 2022 gathered in the middle school auditorium on June 9 to celebrate their graduation.
The Pathways to Academic Student Success (PASS) program is an alternative to traditional high school. Students meet the same standards as their peers at Wareham High, but take classes at night instead.
Pass Principal Jane Fondulis welcomed the crowd, saying that the night school students achieved despite the pandemic, which saw them studying remotely from March 2020 through September 2021.
“I am so proud of all our graduates for the tenacity and grit they have demonstrated,” she said. “They often have responsibilities beyond those of other students. Their ability to continue their studies while filling these other roles has well prepared them for the chapter that lies ahead.”
Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood shared some key advice for graduates: Dream big.
“Although you may not realize it, you did dream big when you each chose to complete your high school educational career while balancing other obligations in your lives,” she said. She encouraged them to keep dreaming, noting that some of the graduates have aspirations to work in healthcare, journalism, business management, teaching and counseling.
She advised the students to continue to work hard, be willing and unafraid to make mistakes and be kind.
“You will end up right where you need to be,” Shaver-Hood said.
Emily Cruz, the student speaker, gave a speech that bowled over the crowd.
“I can’t even fathom the fact that I’m standing here in a cap and gown tonight,” she said, explaining that she hoped that by sharing her story, she could help other students who are struggling.
She said that she used to dread going to school and would just watch the clock all day, socialize with friends and “convince the lunch ladies to give me extra cookies.” After school, she’d get into bed and feel overwhelmed with guilt.
Then, she said, her step-dad would come in and say “Get your ass up and do something!”
“Thankfully, he was always there to intervene,” Cruz said. She used her depression and fatigue to excuse her lack of motivation in school, she said. But she knew that unless she made a change, she’d be stuck in that “loop of sameness.”
She decided to chase what she loved: Aesthetics and make-up, muscle cars and the idea of working in medicine, like her mother, who she’s always admired.
During her sophomore year, Cruz decided to take the leap and transfer. Right away, she felt better, she said.
“The staff was absolutely incredible, and they were 100% devoted to the success of each student here right now,” Cruz said. “Because of them, we are here, with smiles and tears on our faces.”
She felt eager to learn, she said: a feeling she hadn’t had since kindergarten. Cruz lovingly described the community at the PASS program, saying she couldn’t believe how much her life had changed. She has a job as a certified nursing assistant and she’s graduating on time.
“I’m ready to take on life after high school,” she said. By pursuing a career in nursing, she’s fulfilling a dream she’s held since childhood. “I stand here incredibly relieved that I got to make that little girl proud today.”
Students were given their diplomas before lining up to turn the tassels on their mortarboards. The crowd gave a standing ovation.