Looking to the future
Local seniors celebrate graduation, post-grad prospects
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Jun 23, 2013 | 7547 views | 0 0 comments | 166 166 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The McNair Academic High School class of 2013 (pictured) has 173 students, one of the largest graduating classes the school has ever had.
The McNair Academic High School class of 2013 (pictured) has 173 students, one of the largest graduating classes the school has ever had.

At press time last week, hundreds of Jersey City students were nervously and excitedly preparing for one of the biggest rites of passage to occur in their young lives: high school graduation. For students in the Jersey City Public School District’s six high schools, graduation ceremonies were scheduled to take place on Friday, June 21.

For seniors enrolled at the two Hudson County high schools, County Prep High School in Jersey City and High Tech High School in North Bergen, graduation ceremonies will be held this coming week. The County Prep graduation will be held on Monday, June 24 at 5 p.m. at New Jersey City University. The High Tech High School graduation will take place at the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center in Secaucus on Tuesday, June 25 at 6 p.m.

For graduates and parents alike, graduation and all that comes with it – specifically, early adulthood – brings both anxiety and excitement. Grads heading into the work world may enjoy some measure of financial freedom from their parents, but may also be faced with many new responsibilities they avoided while in high school.

Graduates fortunate enough to be going away to college in the fall may be looking forward to the thrill of living away from home for a while, but may also have some apprehension about moving away to a new school, in a new town, with new classmates.
For graduates and parents alike, graduation and all that comes with it brings both anxiety and excitement.
Last week, two graduates, McNair Academic High School seniors Annette Castro and Emma Latham – the 2013 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively – took a break from graduation ceremony rehearsal to reflect on their time at McNair and to discuss their plans for the future.

‘Forced me to broaden my way of thinking’

At a time when many school districts are encouraging students to identify a future career or vocation as early as middle school, Castro, 18, and Latham, 17, both exhibit a refreshing openness to education in general and the process of learning for the sake of knowledge, not resume padding.

Both young women are college bound, but have not pinned themselves down to specific majors.

“Not at all,” Castro answered succinctly when asked if she has selected a possible major. A track and field athlete during her tenure at McNair, Castro will attend Yale University in the fall and said that what she wants is a well-rounded liberal arts education. “That might be the best route for me.”

While Castro said she had no favorite subjects while in high school, since she really likes all of her classes, her freshman and junior English classes, both taught by Jennifer Dwyer, were standouts.

“I worked on my writing skills. That’s the skill I prize most in myself,” reflected Castro, whose favorite author right now is Vladimir Nabokov. “Ms. Dwyer also exposed us to a lot of new ideas and forced me to broaden my way of thinking in a way I hadn’t done before. Those classes changed the way I think.”

The eldest of two children, Castro was active in the National Honors Society and the McNair chapter of the Future Educators Association. Outside of school, she played piano for seven years.

Graduating with the second highest grade point average (GPA) in the class of 2013, Latham is off to India in the fall as part of Princeton University’s Bridge Program.

Under this program, Latham, explained, “Thirty-five students are able to go to one of five different countries. So for the next year I’m going to be going to India. I’m not really quite ready for Princeton. I feel like going to a college that prestigious is a really big gift and it’s something really important and I don’t think I’m old enough or mature enough to fully appreciate it. So, I really wanted to go abroad and get a new perspective.”

Latham, an only child who plays the flute in a jazz band, said her love of Indian culture was fostered right in Jersey City, where the South Asian influence is very strong – thanks to the many Indian and Pakistani residents who have moved here in recent decades.

Like Castro, Latham said the years spent at McNair “enlightened” her.

“I came from a [middle] school that was pretty homogeneous,” she said. “Coming here gave me a new perspective on life and made me want to go abroad and made me want to see more cultures and not just stay in New Jersey and America.”

After her year in India, Latham will return to the U.S., at which time she will attend Princeton as a freshman. While she is leaning towards a major in bio-chemistry, Latham also said that could change later.

At press time last week, the students were not certain what their final GPAs would be on graduation day.

Grads all around town

Castro and Latham are among 173 students graduating this year from McNair Academic, one of the largest classes the school has ever had.

McNair is among Jersey City’s six high schools that was scheduled to hold graduation ceremonies last week. James J. Ferris High School, Dickinson High School, Liberty High School, and Henry Snyder High School, and Lincoln High School were at press time also scheduled to hold their commencement ceremonies on Friday, June 21.

A seventh high school, Infinity Institute, opened in 2010 and currently only goes through the eleventh grade. Like McNair Academic, students from across the city can attend Infinity, but they must apply for acceptance and score well on an entrance test to be admitted. Infinity has yet to graduate its first class.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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