Upward Bound graduates 12

“The future is uncertain, but the way you approach it is not.”

That was a quote presented during the SUNY Fredonia Upward Bound Program’s Senior Recognition Night in the college’s Cranston Marche on Wednesday, where 12 graduating students from around the area were honored and celebrated as they prepare for their plans after high school.

Smiles ran rampant as each senior received a graduation cord and Upward Bound pin symbolizing their accomplishments.

“Seniors, this is your night; it’s all about you,” Loretta Slaton Torain, program director, said. “We’ve had a great time with all of our students, and it’s a little emotional, as it is every year, because we have special stories from each student. We appreciate all their efforts and we care about them; we become part of their family, and when they are successful, we are successful.”

Senior Edward Torres spoke about his experience with Upward Bound. Torres was dubbed “Mr. President” because he once wore a suit to an Upward Bound ceremony on a hot day while everyone else wore summer clothing.

“When I started the program, I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t think I was going to be standing here someday telling you how fortunate I am to be in this program and how much it changed my life,” he said. “The staff influenced me to work hard and strive for the best.”

Torres added his classmates are “like family” to him. He also thanked his parents for their support.

“My dad once told me to always do better than he did in life, and I never imagined doing better than my father, and the one thing I’ve always strived for is for him to say he was proud of me, and him saying that has helped me to strive for the best,” he said.

Other speakers included Dr. Christine Givner, dean of the SUNY Fredonia College of Education, and Jacqueline Chiarot, regional director for U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.

“What an accomplishment,” Givner told the audience. “The program here is, I think, one of the finest in the country. You should be proud because this is a rigorous program.”

Chiarot gave each senior a certificate of merit from state Assemblyman Andy Goodell and a certificate of special congressional recognition from Reed. She thanked the students for “taking the effort and time to go through the program” and maximizing their potential.

Upward Bound is an educational opportunity program for low-income Americans that provides help to students in overcoming class, social and cultural barriers to higher education. The local program was established in 1989 and requires students to attend tutoring sessions and participate in community service.

This year’s class includes Clifford Nickerson of Brocton High School; Cheyann Doud of Chautauqua Lake High; Agape Berakah, Giovanni Diaz, Angel Echevarria, Rashad Graham, Kaitlyn Skelly, Torres, Daniel Vargas, Johanna Vargas and Austin Zachary of Dunkirk High; and Sarah Seitz of Silver Creek High.

With graduation in sight, all of these students will head off to college for their next phases in life. Berakah received a $30,000 scholarship to enroll at the Rochester Institute of Technology, while Zachary is on his way to Buffalo State College.

“We’re looking forward to their future successes,” Torain said. “They’re going on to major in criminal justice, pre-med, veterinarian, forensics, just all across the board.”

So, while the future may be uncertain, these students seem prepared to approach their futures by giving it their all.

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