By JJ McQueen
Special at AFRO

As gray morning skies gave way to sunshine, graduates from schools across the city of Baltimore gathered at Forest Park High School ahead of their winter 2022 graduation ceremony. Along with families and the community of educators present, the atmosphere was full of positive energy and excitement.

2022 graduate (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises welcomed guests and the celebration began with Michael Dunn singing the national anthem, followed by Sabrena Wright singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Schools. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

Santelises echoed the day’s excitement, “Since starting my tenure in Baltimore, this winter graduation has become my favorite.”

After strong words of encouragement from Santelises, Mayor Brandon Scott told the audience, “Rise up and celebrate these young people, they deserve it. And they did.

Left to right, Baltimore City CEO Sonja Santelises, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, singer Michael Dunn. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)
(Photos/By JJ McQueen)
Master of Ceremonies Mavis Jackson. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

The guest speaker was Tania Speaks, a Baltimore native who recently appeared on the entrepreneur show “Shark Tank.”

“When I first started building my own business, I faced discrimination based on age and race,” Speaks told the group of more than 100 graduates. “But I haven’t let that deter me from my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, nor should you let anything deter you from your dreams.”

Graduates preparing for the procession. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

With graduates from different high schools gathered in one place, the accomplishments of those who have overcome so much are now a bright spot for the city of Baltimore.

Tears of joy, father and daughter hug each other. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)
Mayor Scott greets Graduate’s daughter. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

On several occasions, students in the audience could be heard praising the support of their school counselors for helping them get through the final hurdle before graduation. Students with children in hand crossing the stage with their parents while receiving their diplomas, were also a sign of the strength necessary for some to reach this milestone.

Tyrion Wright Graduated from Excel Academy. (Photos/By JJ McQueen)

Tyrion Wright of Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School, “I felt like it took forever to get here, but I made it and I’m happy. I was an athlete and was good at wrestling and basketball. I am happy to have been able to see this day.

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