Six Years Ago, We Told Shoemaker’s Class of 2017: #NoBrokenPromises and We Kept Our Word

My beloved school community graduated its seventh senior class yesterday. Many of our students are my neighbors. Several of them are my grand-students (I taught their parents). A few of them are relatives. 

I feel accountable to deliver on the promises we make to our families every single day. We promise that no matter where students are starting from, we will do everything within our power to educate them in the way we want our own children to be educated. #NoBrokenPromises is what we strive for.

Below is what I shared with our community as we gathered for our graduation ceremony.

Greetings. Habari Gani. As Salaamu Alaykum. Good morning and welcome to the graduation ceremonies for Shoemaker’s Class of 2017. I would like to begin our ceremony with a moment of silence for our community members who have passed on. Thank you.

Let’s start by extending a huge THANK YOU to our amazing families for your support and the larger community for embracing our youth and those who serve them. Thank you all.

To the Class of 2017, I want to congratulate you. You are following in the footsteps of our previous six classes of graduates and also creating your own paths. You have led and served in your communities. You have taken full-time dual enrollment courses, mentored your peers, and spent countless hours serving others, competed at local, state, and national levels in lacrosse, robotics, basketball, Scrabble, etc. We are so proud that you have collectively earned over 9 million dollars in scholarships. You have grown, cried, frustrated me, and made me proud. All within the first two periods of school each day.  

Your work to lead and serve in your community reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Denzel Washington, “Between goals and achievements are discipline and consistency.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2017. You are embarking on the next several chapters of your book of life. There will be many tests and trials, but know that with faith, self-discipline, consist hard work, and the support of your community, you will be able to achieve the goals you have set for yourselves. And, if the goals you have set for yourself don’t make you nervous, set your bar higher.

Although we live in a society that praises individual efforts and achievements, know that the most lasting impact you can make will be with and for your community. You have been raised to lead and serve humanity and many of you have already demonstrated your commitment. Remember the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Many of us have been together since Learning Institute during your sixth-grade year. We have faced many challenges together and we have also found much to celebrate. We are very proud of your collective accomplishments. Class of 2017, you have much to offer to your community and your alma mater. Remember that you represent yourselves, your families, your communities, and your ancestors. We know that you will continue to make us proud as you lead and serve. We are counting on you.

Go forth with Assata’s Pledge as the foundation for whatever goals you set and accomplishments you pursue:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Class of 2017, you were raised to be a part of the resistance. Embrace it. Own it. Foster it in others. Look out world, help is on the way.

Shoe Crew, we will always love you!

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About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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