PHOENIXVILLE, PA — On Wednesday, June 10th, 2020, seventy-three seniors graduated from the Renaissance Academy Charter School (RA). The ceremony was held at 7:00 pm and included all the RA traditional Commencement Ceremony through video. The event featured Keynote Speaker and Valedictorian speeches, various awards and scholarships presentations, as well as, the seniors being announced and recognized for earning their diplomas
The keynote speaker, selected by student vote, was Kelly Najdawi, the K-12 Curriculum Leader of English Language Arts at RA. Born and raised in Radnor, PA, Mrs. Najdawi graduated Magna Cum Laude from West Chester University in 2008, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education with a Middle School English Language Arts Certification. She began working at RA in 2008.
During her eleven-year career at RA, Mrs. Najdawi taught English Language Arts to this graduating class in both their 7th and 8th grade years. As their teacher, she made a special connection with this class and is confident they will go on to make a real difference in the world. “This class has always impressed me with their academic drive, personal voice, and understanding, so I felt they were already best prepared to take on their future. I trust them and the decisions they are going to make and expect them to positively change the status quo by using everything Renaissance has instilled in them.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Carolyn (Carly) Higgins, 2020 Valedictorian. As Carly reflected back on her time at RA, she spoke of the challenges her class faced together as a unified group. She went on to stress the importance of self-dependency and having the bravery to pursue life goals even when there are powerful obstacles ahead. “We have the ability to make our dreams a reality, but you have to have the courage to trust yourself first. That’s the world that I want to live in and I know you do too.”
In the fall, Carly plans to be on the pre-med track with a dual major in biology and molecular genetics. While she has not yet decided on her specific college, Carly has been accepted to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Physicians Assistant Program (BS/MS) 5 year program, the University of Rochester’s biological sciences program in molecular genetics, the University of Richmond; the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and West Chester University of Pennsylvania’s biology-cell and molecular program.
The RA 2020 Salutatorian, Jeremy Wenger, who will be attending Olin College of Engineering located in Needham, Massachusetts, gave his speech during a graduation achievement and awards event on Monday night. Jeremy spoke about the accomplishments and unity of his graduating class, as well as their ability to change the world with what they know is true. “Now it is our time to shape the world. We just need to be brave enough to do it.”
The Renaissance Academy Charter School graduating class of 2020 includes:
Grace Katherine Abendshein (Phoenixville, PA), Jamod O. Adams (Norristown, PA), Mark D. Adams (Royersford, PA), Olivia Elizabeth Andreoni (Eagleville, PA), Joshua David BarrancoSilva (Phoenixville, PA), Daniel Eric Barron (Coatesville, PA), Naomi Michele Bruno (Sanatoga, PA), Gavin Daniel Budniak (West Norriton, PA), Olivia Rose Campbell (Royersford, PA), Giavanna M. Caperila (Phoenixville, PA), Emily Paige Cassidy (Phoenixville, PA), Alyssa N. Cekic (Phoenixville, PA), Brianna Chandler (Norristown, PA), Shaun Maria Chester (Phoenixville, PA), Jahi Peter Clark (Norristown, PA), Gabriel Avery Cole (Pottstown, PA), Geoffrey James Cross Jr. (Pottstown, PA), Emilia Anna Crow (Royersford, PA), Susannah Jeannette Cushmore (Norristown, PA), Cornelius I. Dairo (Norristown, PA), Taylor Lynn Darden (Phoenixville, PA), Gianna Rose Debro (Royersford, PA), Jonathan William DeSanto (Phoenixville, PA), Kayla Nicole Diaz (Norristown, PA), Samuel Miles Dooling (Norristown, PA), Ryan James Dunn (Phoenixville, PA) Olivia Rachel Ferst (Norristown, PA), Nicolette G. Foster (East Norriston, PA), Madison Elizabeth Francis (Pottstown, PA), Avinash Suhas Ganguly (Jeffersonville, PA), Kelly Roberta Garman (Collegeville, PA), Morgan Elizabeth Gidney (Gilbertsville, PA), Jaeshon Goodman-Rhodes (Norristown, PA), Grace Riley Grenier (Jeffersonville, PA), Kathryn Ann Guevin (Phoenixville, PA), Shay S. Gustafson (Collegeville, PA), Kiley Rae Henderson (Pottstown, PA), Carolyn S. Higgins (Morgantown, PA), Kaitlin Bryn Irby (Phoenixville, PA), Majesty Sanai Jerry (Norristown, PA), Jurnee Ann Jessie (Norristown, PA), Adam Christopher Johnson (Norristown, PA), Micaiah Allen Jones (Norristown, PA), Elisabeth Faith Kerper (Jeffersonville, PA), Theresa Rose Kolter (Phoenixville, PA), Malachy L. Lacy (Jeffersonville, PA), Tyler Anthony Magyar (Pottstown, PA), Grace Elizabeth Moreschi (Audubon, PA) Lindsey Nicole O’Donnell (Norristown, PA), Max Victor Olstad (Phoenixville, PA), Angelina Clair Pagano (Pottstown, PA), Dominique Xandria Parrish-Hankins (Norristown, PA), James Joseph Pritz IV (East Norriston, PA), Aliyah Nicole Quill (Phoenixville, PA), Benjamin Ali-Reza Rabizadeh (Exton, PA), Erin Kathleen Robbins (Collegeville, PA), Tyler Steven Robbins (Jeffersonville, PA), Trevor Mitchell Schmidt (East Norriton, PA), Lily Catherine Shaffer (Collegeville, PA), Paige Kimberly Simon (Norristown, PA), Lauren R. Stauch (Phoenixville, PA), Sara Bernadette Stockett (Norristown, PA), Lanasha Sweeper (East Norriton, PA), Nathen Lim Te (Norristown, PA), Devon Lynn Testa (Phoenixville, PA), Sarah Irene Trexler (Spring City, PA), Nissi Jayanth Vinnakota (Norristown, PA), Dominique Meghan Vinson (Conshohocken, PA), Alexander Joseph Waskiewicz (Norristown, PA), Cassandra Jean Waskiewicz (Norristown, PA), Jeremy Benjamin Wenger (Royersford, PA), Chandler D. White (Norristown, PA), and Cole Raymond Winters (Phoenixville, PA).
These graduates have been accepted to universities such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dickinson College, Boston University, Bucknell University, University of Rochester, Ohio State University, Olin College of Engineering, University of Michigan, American University, George Washington University, and Swarthmore College. They have been collectively offered (to date) a scholarship total of $17,101,514.00, a new Renaissance Academy merit scholarship school record. Tracey Behrens O’Brien, RA Academic and College Counselor noted that nearly all of the scholarships have been awarded to the students by the individual universities, not from scholarship search sites. “It is so exciting to see an unprecedented number of students in the Class of 2020 being recognized by prestigious colleges.”
Due to the current COVID-19 conditions, some of the traditional RA end-of-year senior events were held a little differently. The graduates were celebrated over five unique nights. Each night, a different link was released on the “Senior Knights 2020” website. The nights had videos and live feeds with different focuses including a night for athletics and the arts; a senior class photo slideshow night; awards and the Salutatorian speech; the senior parent reveal night; the 2020 commencement ceremony; and finally, the graduates’ processional parade.
About this special group of graduates, Upper School Principal, Michelle Boyd said, ” The Class of 2020 will always stand out for all that they have gone through and how they have persevered through such challenging times. The Class of 2o20 displays true grit and determination–they will surely go on to change the world for the better!”
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