Graduation a proud day at ‘place for second chances’

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LOWELL — Each of the 26 graduates of Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School has a story to tell.

At the school’s graduation at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre Thursday, academic advisers took turns telling those stories, sharing an anecdote or piece of advice for each graduate.

Angellica Morales worked toward her high school diploma while raising a young child, and still found time to raise money for pediatric cancer patients. Alex Gardner walked out on his first day at the school, and ended up winning an award for intellectual curiosity on graduation day.

All 26 had been identified as at-risk for graduating when they began their time at the charter school.

“LMACS is truly a school like no other. It’s a place for second chances,” said student Melissa Santos.

“Before I attended LMACS I was just trying to get by and had little motivation to come to school,” she added. “Since being at LMACS I’ve grown in ways that I could never imagined. It may sound cliche, but it’s the honest truth.”

Her time at the school, she said, and the support of her classmates and teachers, had completely changed her outlook on the future.

“I’m confident I will create an incredible life for my daughter, and I owe that to you guys,” Santos said.

The LMACS graduates are all students from the Greater Lowell area who either left their school district prior to graduation or were at risk of dropping out. At LMACS, they are encouraged to strive for high academic achievement despite their past.

“We do have real stories of fallen students who have risen above their own obstacles,” said teacher Kenneth Bello.

Scholarships were awarded to several students, but the largest one, for $1,000 went to Cydney Clougherty.

Clougherty received the Mathew Boule Ethical Value Award, in honor of an LMACS graduate from Dracut who was killed in an Amry helicopter crash in Iraq in 2003.

She asked her classmates to continue working toward achieving their dreams.

“I hope you all keep pushing yourself to accomplish your goals, do what makes you happy and don’t let your past hold you back,” Clougherty said. “Don’t give up, take advantage of every opportunity and don’t take second chances for granted.”