LYNN — KIPP stands for the “Knowledge is Power Program,” and Thursday, at City Hall, the academy celebrated that 100 percent of the seniors who were enrolled in the school last September marched across the stage and got diplomas.
“The graduation rate, nationwide, for Latin Americans is 75 percent, and it’s 74 percent for blacks,” said Manuel Lopez, a former teacher at KIPP in Lynn who now teaches at KIPP’s Infinity Middle School in New York.
“But tonight, for the Class of 2018, 100 percent of our seniors will graduate.”
That was the big news as the school awarded all 104 of those seniors diplomas.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee greeted the graduates by quoting the late Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago this past week.
“We need people,” he said, “who dream of things that never were and ask ‘why not?’
“Take pride in being from Lynn,” he told the students. “Be as proud of the city as the city is of you.”
Some of the speakers alluded to the fact that KIPP was the very definition of a safe haven, and others talked about the closeness of the students in the class. And there was one request — by student-elected speaker Justin Fenton — that there be a moment of silence “for all the victims of the school shootings across the United States who never got the opportunity to experience their graduations.”
By far the most poignant speech belonged to valedictorian Victoria Chiek, who spoke frankly about how the school was her saving grace. She spoke of the circumstances of how her family came to the country, and the difficulties it faced.
“KIPP was a place I ran to every day,” she said. “This was a place where wounds would be blotted.
“You all gave me what I needed,” she said. “I want everyone to know how special this place is. It is clear to me that another community such as this does not exist.”
She spoke of the fact that the school never gave up on her when it might have been easy to do so.
“I remember all the times people wrote me off as a troubled child,” she said, “and that I would never make it. People will always write us off for the small mistakes. We may mess up on the small things, but we make sure we get the big things right.”
Fenton’s exhortations to his classmates were that they “be you, through and through, take mental breaks, laugh like you’ve never laughed before, and grow like a tree and blossom.”
Salutatorian Rosseirys De La Rosa asked her classmates not to “waste time living someone else’s life.” Also, she said, “there will be some dark days when you’ll feel alone, but hold onto hope and keep it alive.”