The road leading to D’Andre Saunders receiving his diploma from Newark High School wasn’t easy, but it was clear at the recent informal summer commencement ceremony that all the effort he and others put into helping him complete his graduation requirements was worth it.
Principal Tom Roote said a summer graduation is special, because it “signifies a certain degree of challenge has been overcome and is evidence of resilience.”
“I have the utmost respect for the work D’Andre put into this,’’ he said.
Roote noted the help and encouragement Saunders received along the way from various staff members, including his school counselor, Sue Gardner.
“D’Andre came to Newark High School two years ago with a huge heart and determination to make his grandma proud,’’ Gardner said. “He knew he had to graduate to show his young siblings the right path to take in life. When we first met. he made an agreement with me to graduate and not give up, and he did that.
“He was a student that always had a smile on his face and said ‘hello’ to me in the hallway. Every teacher that had him would tell me how nice, respectful and caring D’Andre was, and how they wished more students had these attributes.”
Gardner said she was excited when she learned Saunders passed his Regents exams and would graduate.
“I am so proud of him for his determination to finish high school,’’ she said. “I wish D’Andre the best and know that he will continue to be a role model for his brother and sister.”
Superintendent Matt Cook congratulated Saunders on his accomplishment before certifying that he had met the requirements for graduation. Cook said perseverance is one of the most important virtues anyone could have.
The ceremony was attended by Saunders’ family and friends; Krista Lewis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; Ed Gnau, assistant superintendent for business; Russ Harris, president of the board of education; board members Jim Miranda, Brad Steve and Pat Verdine; Robyn Ross-Squirrell, NHS assistant principal; Danielle McGavisk, director of counseling; Patty VerBridge, secretary for the NHS Counseling Office; and other staff members.
A reception for Saunders and his well-wishers followed the commencement ceremony.