By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Breaking the cycle of poverty through education.
Since 2006 this phrase has been the guiding mission of the San Miguel Program, a faith-based middle school, serving low-income students year-round in a safe and positive learning environment. Located in the City of Newburgh, and originally called, San Miguel Academy, the tight knit community school has markedly evolved, including two female students for the first-ever time in its graduating class. That 2002 group, which included 13 graduates in total, took part in the School’s 12th Annual Commencement Exercises Thursday evening.
Principal Frank Snyder provided welcoming remarks. Pointing to the Class of 2022 showing incredible perseverance while dealing with the worst Pandemic in over 100 years, Snyder also complimented the 8th grade graduates for their committed work ethic, highlighted by the number of hours logged reading as well as their dedication to the sport of rowing, consistently showing up for practice an hour before the start of the school day. It’s that unwavering high prioritization-to both academics and sport- that changed Class Valedictorian, Fernando Garcia’s life.
“I started in 5th grade at San Miguel, and before that was used to doing the bare minimum, but quickly realized that would not be anywhere near enough here, and I wasn’t used to getting so much attention from my teachers, which really helped with smaller classes,” said Garcia, one of two students (the other was Janelli Garcia) to earn a full rowing scholarship to the prestigious Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. “Rowing changed my life; it pushed me really hard, and I learned from it how much hard work pays off.”
Another student speaker, who saw first-hand just how pivotal of a difference a San Miguel experience can be, was 2018 graduate, Jack Minano, who provided the Keynote Address. Minano, who had just graduated from Fordham Preparatory School the day before will be attending the Stern School of Business at New York University in the fall. He was quick to cite the life-transforming impact both San Miguel and Fordham had and continues to have on the person he has become.
“It’s crazy how time flies; just four years ago, I was in your shoes, and I know how you’re feeling: nervous about what is in store for you and worried about the uncertainty that lies ahead, but that’s normal,” Minano assured the Class of 2022. “I would like to share three values with you that I know are necessary for you to grow in your academic, personal and spiritual life over the next four years.”
Minano went on to elaborate upon each of those: Determination, open-mindedness and a trust in God. “Face adversity with a smile and ask yourself if you can cross that finish line no matter what is in your way; hard now, easy later,” challenged Minano, who commuted four hours every day to his high school in the Bronx, knowing it would pay off. “To grow as a person, never allow yourself to stop learning, and be able to put your trust in God; once you do, he will never leave your side.”
Minano, also spoke of the specific, potent impact the then named San Miguel Academy had on his young life. Revealing how he always possessed the motivation and ability, he lacked the direction. However, all that changed, once he discovered that elusive, precious guidance at San Miguel.
“This school really taught me a strong sense of community and brotherhood,” said Minano.” It motivated me to want to be better, inspired me to do more and not give up; the graduates before me and mentors helped show me by example the way.
In addition to the Garcias, other members of the San Miguel Program Class of 2022, who will be attending over 10 different high schools, include: John Castellanos, Joseph Cordova, Jacob Crisostomo, Cameron Ford, Leonardo Godinez-Perez, Hector Gomez, Gianna Martinez, Jordi Morals, Sebastian Sanchez, Fernando Santos and Ja’Siah Whitted.