Mayor De Blasio, Chancellor Fariña and City Officials Deliver Commencement Addresses to 2017 Graduates

  • Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 Updated: Thu Jan 02, 2020

Heads of Agencies Speak to High School Seniors and Families, Deliver Personal Messages to Graduates across New York City

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced that Mayor Bill de Blasio, agency commissioners and other senior officials joined her as speakers at high school graduation ceremonies across the City.

By applauding the hard work of high school graduates, celebrating the successes with families and sharing personal stories, city officials are cultivating strong community relationships and inspiring young New Yorkers. The speeches demonstrate City agencies’ commitment to New York City’s 1.1 million public school students and share the value of public service with the next generation of New York City leaders.

“We see a very bright future in our high school graduates, and I’m blown away by their intelligence and confidence – the kind you can only get from New York City public schools,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Graduation is a special day for our students and their families, and I am glad that I – and so many of our City leaders – are able to be part of it and show our commitment to New York City’s students and families.”

“I am grateful to our civic leaders and their support of our students,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As leaders who have dedicated their careers to civil service, commissioners bring a unique message for students, families and educators on the importance and endless rewards of giving back to the community.”

Throughout the month, commissioners addressed students from their alma maters, schools in neighborhoods where they grew up, and schools with a focus or program relevant to their agency’s work. Whether heading to college or starting a career, public school graduates are the future leaders of the New York City and these important connections help students understand how the lessons they have learned in the classroom apply to the real world. 

Last week, Chancellor Fariña addressed graduates at the George Washington Educational Campus, marking the first joint graduation for all four schools on the campus. The campus has made significant strides this year to unify all schools co-located in the building, including the creation of a unified bell schedule, updating facilities and branding, sharing advanced placement courses, collaborating on professional development opportunities for staff across schools, and opening a joint Student Success Center as part of its College Access for All work.

This work is part of the Equity and Excellence for All agenda, which aims to ensure that by 2026, 80 percent of students graduate high school on time and two-thirds of graduates are college ready. Building on record-high graduation rates, record-low dropout rates, and a high-quality pre-K seat for every New York City 4-year-old, Equity and Excellence for All is creating a path from pre-K to college and careers for every child in every neighborhood in New York City.

Earlier this school year, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña announced:

  • The highest-ever graduation rate – 72.6 percent.
  • The lowest-ever dropout rate – 8.5 percent.
  • The highest-ever postsecondary enrollment rate – 55 percent of the Class of 2015.
  • The highest-ever number of New York City students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams in 2016 with an 8.4 percent jump in students taking at least one AP and 8.2 percent jump in students passing at least one AP over the previous year.
  • The highest-ever college readiness rate – 37 percent of all students, and 51 percent of graduates, in the Class of 2016 graduated high school on time and met CUNY’s standards for college readiness in English and math.
  • The highest-ever percentage of high school juniors taking the SAT – 52 percent. All juniors were also able to take the SAT free of charge during the school day this school year.

“Our connection with our schools, students and communities is essential to the work of the NYPD and the future of our City. It is an honor to speak to the students at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety. This is the next generation of young men and women who will serve our City in law enforcement and other professions. This is one opportunity that I and other leaders have to demonstrate our commitment to New York City and our future,” said NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.

“It was an honor to speak with this year's graduating class at the International High School at Prospect Heights, to congratulate them on this impressive accomplishment and to share my experience with them as a fellow immigrant and a woman of color,” said Commissioner for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena. “These students are truly global citizens, and we need their unique perspectives and voices in our city. I'm proud to join members of the administration in supporting this next generation of leaders.”

“It’s important for high school students to be exposed to a diverse group of City leaders to inspire and encourage them towards a career in public service,” said Department of Citywide Administrative Services Commissioner Lisette Camilo. “I’m hoping our presence at high school graduations will be a strong reminder to the Class of 2017, that no matter where they come from, no matter what language they speak, they too can succeed in New York City.”

“It was an honor speaking to the graduating class of Emma Lazarus High School,” said Paula Gavin, NYC Service Chief Service Officer. “As a school dedicated to English Language Learners, these graduates are an inspiration in their determination to succeed in academics and life. I congratulate the entire Emma Lazarus High School family for their achievement and spirit!” 

Chair Marisa Lago, City Planning Commission, said, “It is an honor to address our City’s future architects, designers and planners and congratulate them on their accomplishments at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. Their special skills will allow them to continue helping their communities achieve their vision for the future, making New York an even greater city.”

“It was my great honor to give a graduation speech at the Urban Assembly School for Media Studies,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “With the media landscape rapidly changing and the need for quality reporting at an all-time high, these young people will be the storytellers, documentarians and media professionals of the future.”

“It’s important for women to support each other and drive each other forward, and I jumped at the chance to speak to the inspiring graduates at The Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women,” said Andrea Hagelgans, Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning. “These young women will keep working together and taking advantage of every opportunity in front of them as they become the future leaders of our City and country.”

“Commitment, love and pride filled the auditorium as students encouraged each other to keep aiming high, while parents sincerely thanked teachers, and teachers validated the parents’ and students’ accomplishments,” said Senior Advisor Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. “The City’s future looks bright with the class of 2017.”

Graduation speakers include:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio – Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice
  • Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña – George Washington Educational Campus
  • NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill – High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety
  • Commissioner Penny Abeywardena, Mayor’s Office for International Affairs – International High School at Prospect Heights
  • Commissioner Lisette Camilo, Department of Citywide Administrative Services – International High School at Lafayette
  • Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin, NYC Service – Emma Lazarus High School
  • Chair Marisa Lago, City Planning Commission – Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design
  • Commissioner Robert Linn, Office of Labor Relations – The Maxine Greene High School for Imaginative Inquiry
  • Commissioner Julie Menin, Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment – Urban Assembly School for Media Studies
  • Andrea Hagelgans, Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning for Mayor de Blasio – Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women
  • Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Senior Advisor to Mayor de Blasio – The Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy
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