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Bradwell celebrates more than 350 grads
Bradwell grads
Many of the graduates hugged and thanked their teachers during a procession following graduation.

More than 350 Bradwell Institute seniors turned their tassels to the other side of their mortarboard caps Friday night at Olvey Field/Hokey Jackson Stadium.

The class of 2024 celebrated its commencement and the end of its collective high school years in front of thousands of friends and family members, who were thanked for their support by the top of the BI class.

“The people I love have undoubtedly shaped me into the person who is here before you today,” valedictorian Alysia Estrada said in her address. “Your support has given us the strength and courage to pursue our goals. It has been the honor of a lifetime to celebrate with you tonight.

“I am simply a product of every coach, teammate, advisor, supporter, teacher, friend, family member and loved one,” Estrada continued. “It truly takes a village and I think my community for showering me with so much joy and compassion.”

Estrada also thanked her parents for their support during her upbringing and high school years, extending her gratitude to her father and to her mother, whom she called “my biggest cheerleader and my fiercest advocate.”

“Mom, your unwavering love, support and encouragement has been the guiding light that has fueled my dreams,” Estrada said. “You have been there for me every step of the way.”

The BI class of 2024’s top graduate also thanked God “for his countless blessings in helping me evolve and grow into the person I am today.”

Estrada praised her classmates for their ability to adapt and their resilience, considering how they started their high school journey.

“We entered Bradwell Institute with faces obscured by masks, Google meet classes, one-way hallways, and numerous challenges thrown at us by a global pandemic,” she said. “Through all the struggle, we persevered. The high school that once seemed unfamiliar and daunting began to feel more comfortable. We forged relationships, celebrated victories, fought personal battles and made memories along the way. Let us reflect on how much we’ve grown since those uncertain freshman days.”

Estrada also exhorted her fellow classmates to disregard the naysayers and to find their own unique gift in life to share with others.

“Please never let anyone tell you that you can’t become something,” she said. “Don’t let them talk you down from greatness or push you off your path. Harvest your gift, enrich your spirit and remember how special you truly are.”

Salutatorian Na’Ryah Robinson said high school has been a journey “with its many ups and downs.”

“For me, ninth grade was one of the hardest times in my life,” she said. “I forced myself to fight through terrible times with no support.”

Robinson, who is headed to the University of Georgia, gave her family and friends credit for helping her through high school.

“I want to thank my best friend for being my number one fan and believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” Robinson said. “To my family, I love you all more than words can express. You mean the world to me. Thank you to my mom and dad show me what a work ethic is. To my three rocks, my sisters and my brother, you will never know what you mean to me. Thank you guys for listening to the years of rambling on things that didn’t make much sense to you.”

Robinson said trying to be a role model for her younger sister Sa’Ryah “has been the most demanding job of my life,” she said.

She also noted that current BI principal Roland Van Horn was also middle school principal for many of her classmates, “and I think that is pretty cool,” she said.

“I can’t thank my teachers enough,” Robinson said. “Teachers play such an essential role in shaping our futures. All of you have shown me that I am more than just a number in this county.”

Robinson congratulated her classmates for choosing to wake up every day and live. “That in itself is amazing,” she said.

And for those who didn’t think she could achieve the status she got as salutatorian, she had a few parting words.

“To anyone who never believed in me or thought someone else should have been up on this stage tonight: You will never amount to me,” Robinson said.

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