By J.J. McQueen
Special to the AFRO

As the morning’s gray sky gave way to sunshine, Baltimore City Schools’ graduates gathered at Forest Park High School in anticipation of their 2022 winter graduation ceremony. With families and the community of educators in attendance, the atmosphere was full of positive energy and excitement. 

2022 Graduate (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises welcomed guests and the celebration began with Michael Dunn singing the national anthem, followed by Sabrena Wright singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” 

Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

Santelises echoed the excitement for the day, “Since my term in Baltimore began, this particular winter graduation has grown to become my favorite.” 

Following strong words of encouragement by Santelises, Mayor Brandon Scott told the audience, “Stand to your feet and celebrate these young people, they deserve it.” And they did.

Lft to Right, Baltimore City CEO Sonja Santelises, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Singer Michael Dunn. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)
(Photos/By J.J. McQueen)
Master of Ceremony Mavis Jackson. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

The featured guest speaker was Tania Speaks, a Baltimore native who was recently featured on the entrepreneur show, “Shark Tank.”

“When I began the journey of starting my own business, I faced age discrimination and race discrimination,” Speaks told the group of more than 100 graduates. “But I didn’t let that discourage me from my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, and you shouldn’t let anything discourage you from your dreams either.”

Graduates preparing for processional. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

With the graduates from different high schools coming together in one place, the achievements of those who have overcome so much is now a bright spot for the City of Baltimore. 

Tears of joy, father and daughter hug. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)
Mayor Scott greeting daughter of Graduate. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

On a number of occasions, students in the audience could be overheard giving credit to the support of their school counselors for helping them over the last hurdle before graduation. Students with children in hand walking across the stage with their parents while receiving their diplomas, were also a sign of the strength needed by some to reach this milestone.

Tyrion Wright Excel Academy Graduate. (Photos/By J.J. McQueen)

Tyrion Wright from Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School , “It seemed like it took forever to get here, but I made it and I’m happy. I was an athlete and was good at wrestling, and basketball. I’m happy that I got to see this day.”

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