The University of Chicago Charter School recently graduated its Class of 2013, celebrating 100 percent college acceptance for its seniors for the second year in a row.
The Charter School’s Woodlawn Campus convocation this June showcased the accomplishments and character of UCW’s scholars, with student speakers not only congratulating their peers but also challenging them to carry on the values of the school to success in college and beyond.
Distinguished keynote speaker Mayor Rahm Emanuel recognized the school teachers and leaders and families who made celebration possible by supporting their students in setting the standard for Chicago.
“You’ve proved to me—and I want everybody else to know—that college, high school graduation and college attendance should become the expectation, not the exception,” he said. “The model here is the model I’m trying to create throughout the city: Principals who are not scared to be held accountable, teachers who will motivate you and parents who get involved.”
The mayor encouraged the graduates to make the most of their next four years, preparing to return to Chicago successful and ready to give back.
“I have high expectations for you, as your parents do. When you’re done with college, I want you to call Chicago home, because if you call Chicago home, we have a great future in the city—as great as you are.”
For many students in the Class of 2013, the journey to that day was one traveled together for seven years. The first class composed of students who enrolled as sixth-graders at UCW when the campus opened in 2006, new alumni reflected on the growth they witnessed and supported as they persevered with their peers.
“Most of us have known each other for more than five years—five years,” said salutatorian Kyara Malone. “Even the ones who arrived their freshman year were still part of the UEI family, coming from CGW, NKO or Donoghue.
“We are not just a class, but a family, and I’ve seen this family come from struggle to success—some took longer than others, but we knew they would come out on top in the end. I know it will be bittersweet as we move on, but I also know you will always find ways to better yourself for your future.”
Malone said she would dearly miss her UCW family, but trusted that she and her classmates were well-prepared to lead themselves in the next stage of their journeys.
“UCW helped me to actually teach other people to become leaders, by setting a standard and making that standard known. They weren’t saying ‘This person, we’re going to show you how to be a leader, and this person, we’re not.’ No, everybody—they see a potential leader in everybody, and that’s how they taught me.”
As students prepared to take their diplomas, valedictorian DeMaria Scaife left her classmates with a moving reminder of their ability—and responsibility—to commit to leading themselves through challenges yet to come, as they at the UChicago Charter School.
“The Class of 2013 will be entering college this fall,” she said, “and likely sitting at an orientation listening to a speaker say, ‘Look to your left, look to your right—some of you won't be walking across this stage in four years.’ I beg to differ. I say to each and every one of you, challenge yourself, hold yourself accountable. We can’t allow statistics to dictate our future. I expect all of you to complete college and do an even better job than you did in high school.”
Scaife closed her address to the Class of 2013 with a clear and urgent charge, embodying the UChicago Charter mission.
“See you in 2017 with your bachelor’s degrees, reflecting on this day once again. Thank you all.”