‘Today I chose to never give up’: BOCES Alt Ed students graduate

The graduates overcame many obstacles to get to this day

Posted 7/6/24

‘Today I chose to never give up’: BOCES Alt Ed students graduate

The graduates overcame many obstacles to get to this day


CALLICOON, NY — Jesse Guara …

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‘Today I chose to never give up’: BOCES Alt Ed students graduate

The graduates overcame many obstacles to get to this day


CALLICOON, NY — Jesse Guara overcame a long list of hardships on the way to graduation.

“For much of my time attending school, I never thought I’d get where I stand today,” said Guara, a Monticello High School student who addressed the crowd attending Sullivan BOCES Special Education/Alternative Education graduation ceremonies at the Villa Roma in Callicoon on June 25. “As a kid I was always the odd one out of the bunch. I almost never did homework and constructed mediocre answers from school work, but somehow aced all tests given to me.”

Guara said the saga persisted until ninth grade, which he was forced to repeat because of COVID.

“During this time I had got the lowest of lows in school with literally no work done, and 50s across the board,” he said. “Then I had a chance to come to school at BOCES, and I took it, seeing it as an opportunity to work out an end goal of success during a time of difficulty. I wanted to escape the smart-mouthed delinquency of my behavior towards teachers, and find an environment where I could learn and be interested in the prospect of furthering my education.

“Alt Ed’s vision was to provide a different pathway to receive education for students who didn’t fit the traditional mold."

He told his peers, instructors, and well-wishers: “We look forward to the future for our graduating class who will pursue great careers and fulfillment in many facets of their lives. May we hold our heads onto the new horizon of endless possibilities.”

Guara left the podium with a parting quote: “If you are hungry for the best things in life, eat the food of determination, and drink from the cup of hope so that you may nourish the mind of a great tomorrow.”

‘Obstacles into opportunities’

Farris Abu-Alghanm of Liberty High School led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Sullivan County District Attorney Brian Conaty was keynote speaker, and Sullivan BOCES Superintendent Dr. Robert Dufour quoted a poem by Frederick Akuamoah.

BOCES deputy superintendent Susan A. Schmidt gave the welcoming address.

“Graduation is truly my favorite event,” Schmidt said. “Your smiling faces say it all. Throughout your high school journey, you faced many challenges, but you were able to turn those obstacles into opportunities. You experienced a tremendous amount of growth and you celebrated a variety of successes along the way. Your dedication, your perseverance and your support network helped you achieve this milestone.”

She added, “Cherish the memories you’ve made, the lessons you’ve learned, and the friendships you’ve forged....Embrace the opportunities that lie ahead with the same determination and passion that brought you to this moment.”

Diplomas in hand, the Class of 2024 turned their tassels and walked down the center aisle into the welcoming embraces of family, friends and teachers. Monticello graduate Elizabeth Totten-Mitchell wore a mortarboard that she had adorned with an inspiring message for the world to see: “Today I chose to never give up.”

Callicoon, Jesse Guara, Monticello High School, Sullivan BOCES Special Education/Alternative Education, graduation, Villa Roma, Farris Abu-Alghanm, Liberty High School, Brian Conaty, Dr. Robert Dufour, Frederick Akuamoah, Susan A. Schmidt, Elizabeth Totten-Mitchell


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