“Dear future, I’m now ready.”
With these parting words, Valedictorian Thalia Caro challenged her LBA Academy classmates to achieve great things during June 4 commencement ceremonies at MDC North Campus.
The charter school’s Class of 2018 appeared eager to accept the challenge – along with the support of their proud families.
“I want to study business administration,” said Senior Class President Natalie Orozco, 18, shortly after speaking during the graduation ceremony.
Besides earning a scholarship through the Latin Builders Association, Natalie was awarded a “junior director” position on the association’s board, a designation that helps mentor a young person on the road to entrepreneurship.
Several students were awarded scholarships from LBA member companies Milner, Hotwire Communications and the Jose Milton Foundation.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Natalie’s mom, Suzy Orozco, who was holding several colorful balloons right after the ceremony. “She has many ambitions and she’s going to achieve them because she’s very dedicated.”
Natalie was among 29 students who graduated from the innovative charter school launched by the Latin Builders Association six years ago. Located in Hialeah Gardens, the school is the first known partnership between a professional organization and a public-school district. LBA’s mission is to educate future leaders of the construction industry and related fields, such as engineering, real estate, property management and others.
“I want to study business law and that’s the career I’m trying to pursue,” said Valedictorian Thalia Caro, 18, who was awarded a Milner scholarship to complete her bachelor’s degree. With the school’s highest grade-point average, Thalia has almost completed her associate degree through LBA’s dual enrollment program.
Thalia confessed to being “a little nervous” as she delivered her rap-inspired speech with phrases that rhymed. The young woman who loves poetry thanked her parents, teachers, school administrators and LBA members for giving her and her classmates the opportunities to achieve their dreams.
“If ever in doubt, just shout your name and take a minute to look back and realize all that you overcame to make it where you are today,” she said in her Valedictorian speech.
After she spoke, her mother and father cheered from the audience.
“I’m very happy and proud that my daughter has given me this joy today,” said Pablo Caro, a condo maintenance worker from Hialeah who came to the United States from Cuba when Thalia was just 2 years old.
“We have made many sacrifices so that she can be here, and we’ll continue to work hard so my daughter can get ahead.”
“I’m so excited today, so proud,” said the student’s mother, Lara Caro, fighting back tears. “This is a dream come true, a sign that our sacrifices have not been in vain.”
The mood was festive and boisterous after the late-afternoon graduation ceremony. Students and families gathered in the college courtyard outside the Lehman Theater to celebrate the milestone in a young life.
Sheyanne Williams, 18, who led the Pledge of Allegiance during commencement, had his parents, younger sister and aunt in tow. He celebrated with them as he reflected on his future.
“For me, my next step is to go to college to study my major, which is sports management and get ahead of the game,” said Williams, who dreams of entering the television industry – maybe someday in front of the cameras.
“If I can work my way up to that, that would be amazing,” Alexis Williams always knew her son was amazingly bright. But in his last year of middle school, she feared he was getting into the wrong crowd and veering off track. Through a friend, she heard about LBA Academy and liked the fact that it was a small school with big goals.
“He’s very smart; he’s headed for greatness,” said the proud mother who lives in Miami Lakes. “What I liked about this school is that they not only taught him academics, they taught him life lessons.”
Life lessons were in abundance at Monday’s commencement ceremony.
LBA President Eric Montes De Oca encouraged the graduating class to aim high. “Make sure the next steps in your lives will be great ones […] be passionate and heartfelt in all your actions.”
LBA Academy Chair Michelle Pradere-Noriega thanked the hard work of the school’s staff and teachers, and above all, of the parents and “abuelos.”
Principal Jennifer Jaynes challenged her students to work hard for the things they want to achieve, no matter the obstacles.
Ms. [Gina] Terry [assistant principal] and I and your teachers have equipped you with the tools to be successful in any career path that you may choose. Remember what the LBA has instilled in you ‘learning today, leading tomorrow.’”
But the day’s universal meaning was perhaps best articulated by the keynote speaker, Miami Dade County Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr., who was introduced by LBA Academy Chair Emeritus Bernie Navarro.
The Commissioner encouraged the Class of 2018 to remember those who helped them achieve their dreams and to find ways to give back to their communities.
“Be mindful that your parents have paved the way for you,” said Bovo, turning to the graduating class sitting on the stage behind him. “It’s important to think in terms of giving back to your community and consider – maybe after they make money (he said jokingly, turning to LBA Board members, also on stage) — public service. “Consider running for commissioner, councilman, state representative, congressman, senator.”
“It is noble to be able to give back to your community and the Lord knows we need input of ideas from people willing to move the conversation beyond ‘what’s in it for me,’” he added. “For far too long our community has only looked at ‘I’m only interested in my kind’. But we need folk to step forward and not only think about ‘their kind’ but about future generations.”
Before his speech, Bovo spoke to a journalist about his theme of giving back to community, hoping that LBA Academy graduates will become not only the city’s future builders, but the innovators who can guide Miami to a better future.
“It’s our responsibility to leave our community in a better shape than what was given to us,” said Bovo, pointing to some of the city’s challenges, among them “transportation, smarter ways to build, technology, create a foundation that keeps our children, our talent here.”
“Some of that is on us, this generation,” he continued. “But before you know it, will be on them to help foster that.”
LBA Academy has open enrollment for the new school year starting in August. Parents can enroll their children by visiting the school at 11093 NW 138 St., #207, calling 305-822-8455 or visiting the website www.lbaacademy.org.