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Schools chancellor delivers keynote address at alma mater’s high school graduation ceremony in Queens

Citi Field hosted Queens Technical High School's graduation ceremony on June 18. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Queens Technical High School celebrated its graduating class of 2021 with a ceremony at Citi Field on Friday, June 18.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, an alumna of Queens Tech — which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — delivered the keynote address to 230 graduating seniors and 460 family members seated in the Delta Silver section of the stadium in a socially distanced setting.

Porter announced that she was delighted to deliver the commencement speech to the graduating class of 2021 at Citi Field, “the home of the first-place Mets,” recalling that her graduation ceremony 30 years ago took place in a hangar at Aviation High School.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter delivers a speech at her alma mater Queens Technical High School’s senior graduation. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The chancellor, the first Black woman at the helm of the nation’s largest school system, began her speech with a shoutout to her plumbing teacher Sean McCarthy.

Porter, one of the first two female students to graduate from the Queens Tech — or Queens Vocational, as it was called 30 years ago — plumbing program said that McCarthy, who is retiring, never treated her “like a girl” in the plumbing shop.

“He always held me to the same high standards and expectations, and they believed in me and knew we were doing something special together,” Porter said.

Addressing the graduates, she said that obtaining a high school diploma is a major accomplishment during the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

Queens Technical High School graduates show off decorated their graduation caps. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Family members celebrate with balloons during the graduation ceremony at Citi Field. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

However, Porter emphasized that despite the obstacles and heartache that the COVID-19 pandemic created, students managed to overcome the crisis with “power, strength and resilience” while facing the challenges of online learning and helping younger siblings maneuver the virtual classrooms along the way, as well as the long days of studying while taking on jobs to support their families.

“All of a sudden, you lost the face-to-face interactions with your classmates and teachers. Many of us lost someone close to us or in our communities,” Porter said. “And yet, look at where you all are today! You did everything you needed to do to arrive at this moment. And we are celebrating you for that.”

Queens Technical High School seniors celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Citi Field on June 18. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The chancellor drew from her life’s journey and advised the students that life is filled with surprises.

“Even though I studied to be a plumber, I ended up following the path of my mom and my aunt, who were teachers,” Porter said. “I learned from both of them what one teacher could do to change the life of a student.”

The chancellor also urged the students to stand up against racism in light of the rise in violence against minority communities.

“You can play a meaningful role in addressing the anti-Black violence, antisemitism, anti-Asian violence, Islamophobia, xenophobia and homophobia that causes harm every day. None of us can be silent or passive in the face of hatred and violence in all its forms,” Porter said.

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