Page 16 THE MALDEN ADVOCATE–Friday, June 7, 2024 The following remarks were delivered on Graduation Day by the #2-ranked student in the Class of 2024, Salutatorian Alejandra Fernandez S taff, Mayor Gary Christenson, students, families, and friends, welcome to the 2024 Malden High School Commencement Ceremony. Thank you all for being with us on this momentous afternoon as we celebrate our graduates and their accomplishments. Good afternoon, my name is Alejandra Fernandez, and I am from Venezuela, honored here today as a salutatorian of the class of 2024. Before I begin, I would like to thank my classmates, teachers, and administrators for all their work in creating a welcoming environment that embraces diversity at Malden High School. Thank you to all the teachers who have supported me in this journey, especially Ms. Clapp, Mr. Marques, Ms. Haskell, Mr. Gallagher, Ms. Grillon, and Mr. Scheer. I’m forever grateful for all the help and advice they have given me. I would also like to thank my parents, who are the reason I stand here today. I will make a quick switch to Spanish to thank them: Mami y papi, ustedes son la razón por la que estoy aquí hoy dando un discurso. Desde darme la mejor educación a mi y a mis hermanos. A mis hermanos, Adriana y Jose, gracias por siempre apoyarme y por ser un ejemplo para mi. Los amo mucho, y todo mi esfuerzo y dedicación es gracias a ustedes. Three years ago, when I arAlejandra Fernandez Malden High School Class of 2024 Salutatorian de pre-escolar ustedes me han impulsado a seguir mis sueños, a nunca dudar de mi, y me han dado la fuerza para superar cualquier obstáculo en el camino. Mami, gracias a ti por darme la valentía e impulsarme a alcanzar todo lo que me proponga. Papi, gracias a ti no solo por todas las loncheras que preparabas para mí a las cinco de la mañana, sino también porque me has enseñado el valor de la amabilidad y siempre te has asegurado rived in the United States, I felt a huge emptiness due to leaving my community in Venezuela behind. I felt isolated and lost, as if I were in the middle of the ocean. But soon, books became my best friends as I strived to ensure my parents’ decision to move here was worth it, and that I could find ways to one day give back to my community. Coming to the United States opened the doors to many opportunities through education. In Venezuela, millions of people are prevented from learning, and even having access to a notebook or a pencil can be impossible. What we might take for granted, like having an air conditioner in a classroom, is what millions dream of. I experienced how my home country came apart as education was taken away from many people, meaning that their dreams to become nurses, engineers, or teachers were shut down in exchange for working to survive in a humanitarian crisis. In many parts of the world, injustices and inequalities continue happening every day, and dreams are shut down every second. As I stand here today, I urge you all to please don’t forget about these issues happening in the world. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Whether your next step in life is attending a four-year or two-year college or going into the workforce, take advantage of the learning opportunities, be bold, and strive to make a positive change wherever you go. Use education as a tool to make a change for those who don’t have a voice. Beyond education, collaboration is essential in opening new channels for learning and building communities. I’m proud to be part of a diverse community in Malden, where the friends I have made along the way are also why I stand here today. If it weren’t for Yuxin Zeng and Belen Quispe for helping me learn the comparison test in my calculus class, Hadjar Yousfi for helping me figure out the error in my code, Jessica Li and Susila Wong, who did hundreds of peer edits in my research paper to make sure I wasn’t unintentionally plagiarizing anything, Tiffany Pham, who reminded me of our psychology tests, and my other friends who have been incredibly supportive, I wouldn’t be here today. All of them have shown me that together, we can make a positive change and anything is possible. Now that we have passed the challenges of high school like seeing a trash can on fire or walking up four flights of stairs without getting tired (although I still get tired), it is time to move on to our next chapter. Ahead of us stand the dreams we will realize; ahead of us stands life. Don’t forget to always believe in yourself; can we all say together, “We are ready!”Congratulations to the Class of 2024! I love you all. Malden residents recognized for their commitment to assist newcomers during immigration spike V olunteers from throughout Greater Boston were honored by Malden’s The Immigrant Learning Center (The ILC) on Friday, May 31, 2024. The recent spike in newcomers to Massachusetts has put enormous pressure on free programs at places like The ILC that help immigrants and refugees learn English and job search and life skills so they can become productive members of Greater Boston communities. The waiting list for classes is expected to surpass 2,000 people this summer for the first time in The ILC’s 31year history. These volunteers are crucial supports for The ILC teachers trying to ensure all students’ needs are met. The ILC Executive Director Vince Rivers explained the importance of volunteers and some of the recent changes: “Over the course of the last nine months we’ve made some significant changes to be able to help more students. We serve Volunteers from throughout Greater Boston were honored by Malden’s The Immigrant Learning Center. Pictured from left to right: Seated: Nancy Free, Elise Fahey, Marsha Atler and Joan Doyle; middle row: Sandy Perkins, Kim Addison, Charlene Calahan, Andy Koppel, Lisa Grollman and John and Joanne Harney; back row: Trish Micheli, Jerry O’Connell, Mike Kiewra, Ellen Vargyas, Paul Jackson, Perry Cottrelle and Gene Moulton. (Courtesy photo) over 400 students today versus we were serving slightly over 300 in September. There are not 400 students in this building without you guys.” Once placed with a teacher, weekly volunteers spend up to three hours helping students learn grammar, reading, writing, communication, technology and work force development skills in English as well as prepare them for the U.S. citizenship exam and increase their understanding of American culture. Malden residents honored on Friday included Nancy Free, who has been a volunteer since 2015, Perry Cottrelle, since 2017, Joan Doyle and Kim Addison, who both joined in 2022, and Trish Micheli, who retired from The ILC in 2022 and volunteers as a substitute teacher. The ILC volunteers help students with a range of skills, from low literacy in their first languages to those with advanced degrees, to learn English and achieve goals, such as finding a job, getting an education or becoming a U.S. citizen. As a result, immigrants and refugees are able to contribute more effectively to their new communities through economic, civic and cultural engagement. New volunteers are always welcome. For more information about the volunteer program, contact Laura Straub at lstraub@ ilctr.org or 781-322-9777. About The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. The ILC of Malden, Mass., is a nonprofit organization that gives immigrants a voice in three ways. The English Language Program provides free, year-round English for Speakers of Other Languages classes to help immigrant and refugee adults in Greater Boston become successful workers, parents and community members. The Public Education Institute informs Americans about immigrants and immigration in the United States, and the Institute for Immigration Research, a joint venture with George Mason University, produces valid, reliable and objective multidisciplinary research on immigrants and immigration to the United States.For more info, visit the website http://www.ilctr.org.

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