Commonwealth grads urged to do good things
Members of the Class of 2016, the last graduating class from Commonwealth Connections Academy, are shown during commencement exercises held Wednesday at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe. Next year's class will graduate under the new name of Commonwealth Charter Academy. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
You'll never know what you're capable of if you never try.
So were the words shared with students from the Commonwealth Connections Academy's northeast Pennsylvania region during commencement exercises held Wednesday at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.
The ceremony marked the eighth graduating class for the academy, which also held several other ceremonies this week at its Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh sites for students who compose the class of 2016.
High school Principal Tony Rusnak greeted those in attendance.
Rusnak then introduced student speaker Joseph Guagliardi, who said that "Connections has taught us more than just math or English.
"We have developed real life skills that will carry us throughout our lives, self-discipline, tenacity, confidence and passion to name a few," Guagliardi said. "These are qualities that no textbook can instill, but are rather developed over time by positive and compassionate mentors."
The second student speaker was Jessica Hernandez, who told her fellow graduates that while schooling might have been boring at times, high school was an important step in their lives.
"We've had a unique opportunity attending a cyberschool," Hernandez said. "Here, you really have to take your education into your own hands by reaching out for help, pacing yourself, talking to teachers and attending their LiveLessons, and the drive and motivation you need to succeed here is not something that I think any of us won't find useful in our lives now."
Rusnak spoke about inspiration.
"Inspiration has to come from within," Rusnak said.
He then introduced CEOMaurice Flurie III,who gave the commencement address.
Flurie said that in its first school year, Commonwealth Connections Academy educated fewer than 400 students and employed eight teachers. When they opened, they served grades K-8, and then began to add a high school grade every year beginning in 2005, he said.
For the upcoming 2016-17 school year, Flurie said they anticipate an enrollment of more than 10,000 students.
"At CCA, we will always welcome and encourage family engagement," Flurie said.
He noted that this will be the last graduating class from Commonwealth Connections Academy, as the class of 2017 will graduate under its new name of Commonwealth Charter Academy, a change made necessary by its growth and expanded capabilities, along with its desire to better serve families in Pennsylvania.
Flurie urged the students to "stay informed and stay engaged."
He then proposed a challenge to all of the graduates by presenting them with a question to ask themselves.
The question, Flurie said, is "what is my capacity to do good things?"
"It seems as a country and society, niceness is in an ever-shrinking supply," he said. "Graduates, we need your generation to be a generation that looks to do good things for others and do so with kindness and compassion."
Flurie then asked the graduates to think carefully how they talk to family members and those with more life experiences than them.
"The nicer you are to them, the more you will learn," he said. "In summary, think about what your capacity to do good is, and allow that singular thought begin to ground your decisions."
Afterward, it was time for the presentation of diplomas, followed by closing remarks from Rusnak.