On Friday, June 4, Pasadena Unified School District Senior Class of 2021 will receive their diplomas at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
By Jennifer Hall Lee
Over a thousand students will receive their diplomas in two ceremonies. PUSD superintendent Brian McDonald said he is “very proud of them for persisting and thriving and doing well in the face of this pandemic.”
These PUSD graduates have been accepted to colleges and universities such as Amherst College, California Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, Bryn Mawr College, Rice University, Howard University, Columbia University, and New York University.
Friday’s festivities will be organized into two parts and each high school valedictorian will speak.
The Valedictorians for PUSD high schools are:
- Genevieve Harvey from Blair High School, will be attending Vanderbilt University
- Mason Usher from John Muir High School will be attending Brown University
- Alexandria Velasco from Marshall High School will be attending UCLA
- Florence Winslow from Rose City High School will be attending Pasadena City College
- Jada Paul from CIS Academy will be attending University of San Francisco
- Ritaj Abdulquani from Pasadena High School will be attending Northwestern University
Dr. McDonald added that “As a district we made a commitment to elevate student voices.”
The Blair High School Valedictorian, Genevieve Harvey, has received two scholarships; the Harris Scholarship and the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Ms. Harvey will receive an International Baccalaureate diploma from Blair and she will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall.
Dr. McDonald said that Ms. Harvey is part of the “Student Think Tank, which is a group of students who worked together across several high schools and looked at things in the district through a lens of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. They looked at our curriculum with a critical eye and gave feedback.”
The PUSD graduate profile is unique and Dr. Elizabeth Blanco Chief Officer for Curriculum said that it is “the north star that we have for all students.” The graduate profile includes Critical Thinker, Creative and Innovator Thinker and Collaborator. She added that “Two of the most important ones are External and Internal Values – Culturally Competent Citizens and Healthy Mind and Body.” She said that “Our graduates this year have prevailed in those two areas given the social climate and throughout the pandemic.”
Mason Usher, Valedictorian of John Muir High School who will be attending Brown University, said that he will continue “through their [Brown’s] Program in Liberal Medical Education to the Warren Alpert Medical School, where I have been accepted in advance as a medical student.”
He said that John Muir High “is a school of free-thinkers” and the hallways are filled with “powerful discourse.”
Genevieve Harvey said of her experience in the PUSD, “These teachers and their support, in every PUSD school, is so evident.” She said that the PUSD “has done an excellent job in hiring teachers.”
Pasadena Mayor, Victor Gordo, said: “On behalf of the City of Pasadena and your City Council, I congratulate all of our PUSD graduates! I also want to acknowledge all those who supported students in reaching this important milestone, particularly during these difficult and trying times.”
The PUSD held a commencement ceremony for the first time in the Rose Bowl in 1923. Principal of John Muir High School Dr. Lawton Gray said, “I am so appreciative to the Pasadena Board of Education and the Rose Bowl Operating Company for allowing our students the opportunity to graduate in the Rose Bowl.”
Superintendent McDonald is grateful to the parents for “entrusting their kids in our care during this difficult time” and to “the teachers, staff and site administrators for the role that they have played in ensuring that the students get to the finish line.”
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