NORTHAMPTON, MA – Nine HEC Academy high school graduates proudly celebrated their accomplishments as they gathered on the stage at Sage Hall on the Smith College campus this morning. HEC Academy is an alternative high school in Northampton, MA, run by the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES).
“It’s been a difficult year, and we remember with love those we’ve lost,” said Academy Director Sherry L. Smith, referring to two beloved Academy teachers who had passed away during the school year. She went on to express her pride and that of the Academy faculty for the graduates’ successful completion of the year and their high school experience.
Keynote speaker Jon Feinman, Executive Director and Founder of InnerCity Weightlifting, also had a message about overcoming obstacles. He reflected on his life-changing journey to build an enterprise that combines his interest in weightlifting and his vision for a place to support and provide options for “kids who have no access to hope.” Feinman’s nonprofit organization created an environment where court-involved youth could be a part of building the program they needed to help others pursue careers, finish high school, and find support.
Feinman described how much he had learned about resilience from a gang-involved friend who “was shot, stabbed, spent more than five years in prison, but emerged determined to do right; one of the most courageous people I know.”
Said Feinman to the graduates, “The greatest challenges and struggles can turn into your greatest strengths.”
During the ceremony, Dr. Joan Schuman presented the Joan E. Schuman Scholarship to graduating senior Dakota Ford, who will be continuing his education at HCC in the fall. Ford is one of two recipients of the Schuman Scholarship this year.
The Schuman Scholarship Fund was established to provide one or more one-time scholarships each year to special education students graduating from HEC Academy or from CES member school districts, and moving on to a two- or four-year higher education institution.
Also recognized were the 2014/15 recipients of Ben DeMarino Scholarships; Dakota Ford, Jackson Gallese, and Kevin Ringer. The Ben DeMarino Fund was established in the name of a past HEC Academy student, and helps new students each year to take community college courses while in high school, or pursue other training to help them to reach their goals.