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It was like a Sunday morning church service inside Arlington Community High School as Pastor
Kenneth Sullivan Jr. delivered his commencement speech to the graduating
seniors during the school’s commencement program on Wednesday, June 8.

“You’ve Got Next” is the phrase Sullivan (senior pastor of
New Direction Church) repeated to the graduates, as family and friends from
just about every corner of the room — including the balcony — shouted
“Amen” throughout the motivational speech.

 Shortage Graduation

A few miles away, the atmosphere inside Arsenal Technical High School was just as exciting but more reminiscent
of a school pep rally as the more than 300 graduating seniors began chanting “A
– T” after getting into formation (an uppercase “T” in the middle of the
gymnasium floor) at the beginning of their commencement program. The overflow
crowd chanted along.

 

Nearly 1,000 IPS students received their high school
diplomas on June 8 and 9 during commencement services held in school
auditoriums and gymnasiums throughout the city, with family and friends there
to witness the milestone.

 

While the sights and sounds were unique at each ceremony,
the messages delivered hit home with graduates and audience members. From local
pastors to motivational speakers, professional athletes, alumni and current
valedictorians and salutatorians, each graduate, family, friend and district
supporter left uplifted and filled with hope.

 

Motivational speaker Dr. Jesse W. Jackson III wanted the nearly
140 graduates at Northwest Community High
School
to understand that their destinies are in their own hands.TECH Graduation

 

“A plan
without purpose will put you in a ditch,” said Jackson III, who stressed the
importance of graduates understanding that they “are now responsible for their
own thinking and making important decisions that will impact their lives.”

 

He said
graduates must strive to “be in the right Place surrounded by the right People” and design a “Plan to fulfil their Purpose in life.” And that they must “follow the Process and always strive to
be Productive to
ensure they are able to make a Profit
that will allow them to take care of their families and give back to their
communities.”

 

At John Marshall
Community High School
, Pastor Corey Duncan Sr. (City of Hope Community
Church) was invited to move the crowd again this year. He’s been the keynote
speaker since before Dr. Ashauna Short became principal of the school, which
handed out diplomas to more than 60 graduates on June 8.

 

“In a day of transitions and changes, I thought it would
be powerful to create some sense of continuity for such a momentous occasion,”
said Dr. Short. “Pastor Duncan manages to reach each class and audience
through his riveting speeches and the community always applauds his messages.”

 

George
Washington Community High School
took a different approach in
choosing its commencement speaker, reaching back to a 1977 alumni to inspire
its graduates.

 

Former Indianapolis news anchor Rick Hightower was
honored to speak to the graduating seniors of his alma mater. He recalled his
modest upbringing by parents who fled the sharecropping fields of southern
Kentucky to settle on the near west side of Indianapolis for a better life for
themselves and their future children.

 

Hightower, now the communications marketing and media relations
director for Perry Townships Schools, credited his teachers and administrators
at George Washington for pushing him as a student and as a person.

 

“There’s no way I
will ever be able to convey to the graduates what Washington High School has
meant to me throughout my life,” said Hightower.

 

In
addition to the moving speeches, there were also a few new traditions started
this year.

 

Shortridge
International Baccalaureate High School
’s graduation ceremony marked the
first to feature International Baccalaureate (IB) graduates. The IB Programme
requires its students to complete a rigorous course load that prepares them to
thrive in an increasingly globalized society.

 

The enthusiastic students crossed the Shortridge auditorium
stage to receive their diplomas on June 8, as the oldest public high school in
Indiana participated in it’s 116th commencement ceremony.

 

Senior Awards were given out in the valued areas of Athletic
Scholarship, Service & Ethos and Academic Merit, beginning another a new
Shortridge tradition of recognizing outstanding graduates. Marlin Jackson, former
Indianapolis Colts player and Founder/President of the Fight for Life
Foundation, provided the commencement address, sharing his personal testimony
and encouraging the graduates to fight through adversity as they strive for
greatness.

 

Prior to handing out diplomas, Shortridge Principal Shane
O’Day had some parting words of fortitude.

 

“Find a way to push through. Find a way to make a difference.
… As you embark into your next stage of life, this is where we depart, but it’s
where you find your way. Congratulations.”

 

While all of the students pushed through different obstacles
to receive their diplomas, none were probably greater than the life
circumstances of the graduating seniors from Simon Youth Academy.

 

SYA Coordinator Teresa James-Robinson said she was
overwhelmed during the program’s graduation ceremony inside Circle Centre Mall.

 

“I interviewed each of these kids myself (for the program),
so I knew their stories,” said James-Robinson. “Several worked to help support
their families. Three had been homeless. Two had parents who were ill
that they helped care for. Two had lost a parent, and one of those losses
occurred this school year. But all (18) graduated! I couldn’t be more proud!”

 

The SYA ceremony on Sunday, June 5, was a way
to celebrate the students’ accomplishments. The program is designed for high
school juniors and seniors, who have fallen behind in course credits because of
various life circumstances but are ready to get back on track for graduation.

 

Each SYA graduate received a certificate
during the celebration, and their high school diplomas at their home school’s commencement
ceremony. James-Robinson said students hail from Arsenal Tech and George
Washington.

 

It was standing-room only at several
graduations, including at Crispus
Attucks Medical Magnet High School
where many were seated in an overflow
room with TVs. Performances were also a common thread during ceremonies,
including the presentation of colors by the JROTC Color Guard and performances
of The National Anthem.

 

Unsurprisingly,
graduation night at Broad Ripple Magnet
High School for the Arts and Humanities
was an evening filled with
impressive performances. In
addition to commencement standards including The National Anthem and “Pomp and
Circumstance,” Broad Ripple’s band, choir and orchestra departments joined
forces for an inspirational performance of “The Dreamer.” Seniors joined their
classmates for a final performance, leaving few dry eyes in the house.

 

During the
evening, many students expressed a commitment to taking the talents they’ve
honed and using them to serve others. Broad Ripple’s valedictorian and salutatorian
have strong plans for successful futures incorporating their love of the arts.

 

Valedictorian
Marley A., a member of the dance program, has a full ride to Bellarmine
University for exercise science while Salutatorian Monica H., a visual artist,
is attending the University of Indianapolis to study art education.

 

“We know that
there are kids in life who have an easy ride,” Marley said to her fellow
graduates. “However, we also know that they do not share our sense of
accomplishment when they walk across the stage. We have proved that our dreams
and goals are achievable on our own. I hope that we continue to do so
throughout our futures.”

 

Congratulations
to all of our 2016 IPS graduates from Arlington Community High School, Arsenal Technical High School, Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities, Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, George Washington Community High School, Graduation Academy, John Marshall Community High School, Key Learning Community, Northwest Community High School, Shortridge International Baccalaureate High School, and Simon Youth Academy!

 

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Your futures are bright!