POUGHKEEPSIE – Do not let anyone define who you are!
Those were the words of wisdom offered to the graduates of the Poughkeepsie High School Class of 2019 by keynote speaker Alhassan Susso.
Susso, a 2002 graduate of Poughkeepsie High School, shared his remarkable story Friday evening at the Poughkeepsie Civic Center. An immigrant from West Africa, Susso came to America as a teenager with $20, couldn’t speak English, and had a rare eye disease.
He told the graduates of teachers at Poughkeepsie High School who helped him learn English, gave him clothes, and even helped find a bed in a shelter when he was homeless. Through his perseverance and overcoming many adversities he went on to graduate from Dutchess Community College and then went on to the University of Vermont. He then received his Masters of Arts in Teaching from Bard College.
Today the Poughkeepsie High alum is the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year. It certainly wasn’t always easy, he told the graduates, but “if I can do it, so can you. Never, let anyone define who you are,” Susso said.
Yolvelis Martinez, a member of the Class of 2019, could relate to the keynote speaker. Prior to the commencement exercises, the honor student spent two hours decorating her mortarboard for graduation. It consisted of many photos of people who inspired her along the way.
Taking pride in all she does, Martinez was ranked in the top 10 percentile of her class. Much like the commencement speaker, she plans on giving back to the community by becoming a Pharmacist. She begins that chapter in the fall when she attends the University of Albany.
Poughkeepsie High School Acting Principal Ronald Jackson took a moment to remember those who didn’t make it to graduation during a moment of silence. To those who did make it he said, “It has been my privilege to be your Dean of Students and your Acting Principal. I watched you learn and grow, and am proud of all your success… This celebration today is the beginning of a bright future.”
Dr. Felicia Watson, President of the Board of Education, spoke briefly to the graduates. First she thanked those in the administration for moving the ceremony to the Civic Center, thus avoiding the 90 degree outside temperatures. With a few congratulatory expressions, Watson concluded with a thunderous chant, “Once a Pioneer, always a Pioneer!”
This year’s Salutatorian was Victoria Horner and the Valedictorian was Minh Chau.