CTRA Class of 2019 Feels the Pride

Hundred-Strong CTRA Class of 2019 Feels the Pride
Grad shake

Throughout the school year, Principal Tara Amatrudo worked to help Connecticut River Academy (CTRA) seniors take pride in their accomplishments. After all, no class before had tackled such a work load, with more than 80 percent of students taking college level classes and graduation requirements raised to be the most difficult in the school’s history.

The students rose to the challenge, meeting expectations and setting their own paths for their futures. On Thursday, June 13, it was time to celebrate, as the 100 members of the Class of 2019 graduated during a ceremony held in the school’s boisterous gymnasium on Goodwin College’s Riverside Campus in East Hartford.

Amid the joy, cheers, and a few tears, Amatrudo asked the students to feel proud and harken the wisdom of Fred Rogers. Take an invisible gift, she said to the students, and reflect on the people who loved and inspired them to get to this important moment in their lives.

“Whoever you’ve been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times, you remember how important they are to you,” Amatrudo said.

LEARN and Goodwin College run CTRA, an interdistrict magnet high school that integrates themes of environmental science and advanced manufacturing. CTRA’s location creates numerous opportunities for students of all backgrounds, including chances to take college classes and earn transferrable credit while still in high school.

The Class of 2019 took advantage of those opportunities like no class before it. In total, 82 percent of graduates leave CTRA with a least some credits already earned. Goodwin President Mark Scheinberg said those credits will allow them a little breathing room as they continue working together and erasing barriers imposed by past generations.

“You are the vanguard. You are those kids who have figured out that we are all together,” Scheinberg said. “We are all one. That there is no them, because they are us.”

Student speakers focused on the broad educational landscape that CTRA presented, and not just in terms of academics. While the classes were challenging and the projects required time and difficulty, students found they were learning just as much about character, diversity, and overcoming differences.

Victoria Carpenter grew up in private schools, where she straightened her hair every morning to feel a connection with her classmates. Upon arriving at CTRA, she realized that everyone had their own style, and soon she was establishing her own sense of self.

Carpenter asked her classmates to consider when they were at their best, complimenting their leadership, persistence, and ambition. “We have learned to be our best selves during our time here at CTRA, so go out there and be your best self,” she said. “Don’t let others tell you who you are or who you should be. You decide who you want to be.”

Arqum Chaudhry also focused on CTRA’s diversity. Born and raised in Pakistan, she told her classmates that even when arrived the U.S. at age 8, she didn’t have much interaction outside of her own culture until she started at CTRA.

“Being at CTRA taught us that what you see on the outside does not always tell you the story of what’s on the inside,” Chaudhry said. “We are a beautiful group of diverse individuals, but each of us has been able to find an element of common ground.”

In her address, Amatrudo recounted some of the graduating class’s other achievements, urging them to feel the pride they had earned. They had the highest rate of college acceptance in CTRA history. Moreover, they rose to the meet raised standard for senior capstone and took more Early College Experience classes than any other previous class.

Amatrudo also took a moment to recognize LEARN Executive Director Dr. Eileen Howley, who is retiring at the end of the school year. The CTRA Commencement marked the final graduation ceremony in Howley’s distinguished educational career, which spans nearly four decades. Amatrudo presented Howley with a bouquet of flowers and called her a mentor and example of grace.

Arqum Chaudhry and Victoria Carpenter

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