By Evan Lips Read at Lowell Sun
LOWELL — They’ll always remember the time Ryan Santos decided to scale a streetlight during gym class, Shanekqua Young’s wide smile, Rebecca Gagne’s affinity for lint rollers, John Verduga’s balloon animals and Ryan Demmons’ penchant for eating pizza at 7 a.m.
The 26 young men and women who graduated from the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School on Thursday night will not only leave a lasting impression on each other, but on faculty as well.
“We’re always sad to see our students leave,” teacher and adviser David Daniel said about the Class of 2012.
Daniel spoke about the small class sizes and how they fostered a familial feeling. The closeness between the 26 graduates and their teachers was evident as advisers, including Daniel, read 26 speeches, each one recalling a different anecdote or accomplishment.
For Young, the recipient of the school’s first Phoenix Award (created to honor the persistence of students in the face of adversity), walking across the stage and accepting a high-school diploma was something she once thought would never happen.
“When people doubt you it motivates you to do it,” Young said to a Butler Middle School auditorium full of family, friends and classmates.
Also winning awards was Brandon Kennedy, who earned the school’s Intellectual Curiosity award, and Auburn Dean, who was awarded with Academic Achievement honors.
The Mathew Boule Ethical Value award, bestowed upon the student who demonstrates courage and an ability lead by example, was taken home by Rebecca Gagne.
The parents of Boule, who was 22 when the Army specialist’s Black Hawk helicopter went down in Iraq in 2003, created a $1,000 scholarship in their son’s honor.
When Gagne joined parents Sue and Leo Boulet in an emotional embrace, the auditorium erupted in cheers.
“We’re not just classmates,” graduate Auburn Dean said during her welcoming speech. “We’re family members.”