To honor and celebrate the 27 graduating seniors in the Horizons at New Canaan Country School Class of 2023, staff, academic coaches, board members, alumni, and families attended a graduation and Alumni Association induction ceremony at Country School on Saturday, June 3.
The class student speaker, Alejandro Maya, a 2023 graduate of Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk shared with the graduates that “life has taught us that failure is not the end but a stepping stone towards success…Express your appreciation to those who have supported you, encouraged you, and lifted you up. Gratitude is a powerful force that not only fosters connection but also brings joy and fulfillment to our lives,” said Alejandro. He plans to attend Iona University in the fall.
Nehemie Young, Horizons Director of Student and Family Support was joined by Family Council Board Representative, Eve. St. Surin, to present the Leah Kimmet College Aid Award, which honors former Horizons Executive Director, Leah Kimmet. The award recognizes a graduating Horizons high school senior for their outstanding kindness, enthusiasm, and dedication to others. This year’s award recipient is Keara Duncan, also a graduate of Brien McMahon High School who plans to attend Southern Connecticut University in the fall.
Jackie Roberson, Horizons Senior Program Dean of Students and Culture presented the Jackie Roberson Valedictorian Award to Sebastian Ortiz Salazar, a graduate of St. Luke’s School, who plans to attend University of Pennsylvania as a Mathematical Economics major this fall. This award is in recognition of the student who has received the highest cumulative, weighted GPA throughout their high school years and is known for their integrity and active involvement in the Horizons at NCCS program. Sebastian had the highest GPA in the class, and was part of the school’s math, soccer and squash teams, president of the school’s Hispanic/Latinx affinity group, vice president of the investment club, volunteered at multiple organizations, and worked as a teaching assistant during the Horizons summer program.
The Serenbetz Family Foundation, a longtime supporter of Horizons at NCCS, established the Serenbetz Family Foundation College Scholarships in 2023, awarding two four-year college scholarships each year. The award criteria is inspired by the life and legacy of the former Academic Director, Lavone Roberson who demonstrated courage, resilience, determination, and a deep sense of purpose. The two student award winners were Marques Singleton, also a graduate of Brien McMahon High School and Brianna Benavides, a graduate of Stamford High School. Marques plans to attend Southern Connecticut State University, and Brianna plans to attend the University of Connecticut Storrs.
Eloisa Melendez, Horizons Class of 2012, Board member, and Chair of the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee served as the inspiring alumni speaker at the event. Eloisa asked the graduates to envision where they would want to be in ten years, and then shared her own path post-graduation, assuring them that the bumps along the road are as essential as their successes to their journeys. She then led the recitation of the Alumni Association Oath as the graduating class was inducted into the Horizons Alumni Association.
Horizons Executive Director, Nancy von Euler closed the ceremony with a Franciscan blessing that beautifully reflected the Horizons values and hopes for the impact the graduates will have as they head into the world. “May you be blessed with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.” All students were asked to take a plant that lined the stage and present it to their family in recognition of the love and support that helped them get to this important milestone.
Founded in 1964, Horizons at NCCS is the first in a nationwide network of programs that are successfully closing the opportunity gap experienced by under-resourced students. Horizons at NCCS builds deep and lasting relationships with more than 400 kindergarten through post-secondary students from Norwalk and Stamford it serves each year. In addition to a six-week summer academic and enrichment program, we provide our students with year-round support, including tutoring and academic coaching, college advising, caregiver and family programming, and a Super Saturday program. All of our programs are tuition-free. For more information, please visit www.horizonskids.org.
Photo Caption: Horizons Class of 2023