Boys & Girls Clubs president and CEO Ryan Smiley said the ceremony was an opportunity to recognize Club members for their accomplishments after graduations across the state were cancelled due to COVID-19 and a chance to induct them into the Boys & Girls Clubs Alumni group.
“This was a way for us to pay back our graduating seniors for all the time and hard work they invested in our Clubs and schools,” Smiley said. “It’s also a chance for them to experience something of a traditional graduation where they walk across the stage while their parents look on. It’s an important moment we wanted our kids and parents to have.”
Spread out in the gymnasium at Duneland Boys & Girls Club, roughly 55 parents and family members watched as graduates in caps and gowns waited for their names to be called before walking across the stage to receive alumni certificates inside leather covers emblazoned with the Boys & Girls Clubs logo. Helping distribute the certificates and celebrate the seniors were Hanover Central High School Principal Tami Kepshire, Merrillville High School Assistant Principal Candace Lillie, Valparaiso High School Associate Principal Ashley Monroe, and Steel City Academy Principal Katie Kirley.
The ceremony, emceed by Smiley, also consisted of a video made by Boys & Girls Clubs staff, most of whom were unable to attend in order to keep attendance low and allow proper social distancing, and a video in which Boys & Girls Clubs alumni like Shaquille O’Neal and NFL cornerback Josh Norman offered congratulations. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana and the State of Indiana Youth of the Year Azariah Avery delivered a speech encouraging graduates to remain hopeful in the face of adversity, and HealthLinc’s Chief Branding Officer Brandi Anstine praised them for being part of a generation that actively advocates for equality.
“You know better and you do better,” Anstine told graduates. “And you bring the world along with you.”
Anstine is also a member of the organization’s Professionals Advancing Local Success (PALS), a young professionals group committed to mentoring Club members and bringing in resources for Clubs that directly benefit the character and citizenship development of Club members.
After the ceremony, graduates received swag bags containing items like a Chromebook computer and gift certificates.
Honored at the event were graduates Henry Pendleton and Brooke Ramsey of Crown Point High School, Alex Horon and Phoebe Ruiz of Hanover Central High School, Azariah Avery and Jaysean Massie, Jr. of Merrillville High School, Mireina Keith of Portage High School, Leo Davison and Makayla Detterline of Valparaiso High School, and Da’Quan Boston, Edward Brown, Quan Cooper, Dahmian Cundiff, Dylan Cuthrid, and Kevon Gibson of Steel City Academy.
About Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana:
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana has been opening doors to GREAT FUTURES for Porter and Lake County youth for over 60 years. Clubs are open after school and provide great places for youth in grades K-12 to meet friends and have fun while in a safe, supervised environment. Clubs are open during holidays and in the summer. Annual membership is only $40.00. For information on membership, volunteer opportunities, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact your local Club by calling (219) 764-2582 or visiting bgcgreaternwi.org. Great Futures Start HERE.