Schools chancellor honors 2018 remarkable graduates

7/26/2018, 11:36 a.m.
Chancellor Richard A. Carranza and the New York Mets will honor 131 New York City high school graduates with the ...

Honoree Sam DiFazio stayed true to himself in the face of adversity.

When DiFazio started his freshman year at World Journalism Preparatory School in Queens, he had recently come out as transgender. After a period of adjustment, his family supported him as he began the process of actively transitioning. DiFazio found additional support among friends and teachers, and was awarded the Triple C Award for character, commitment and courage his senior year. Even in the face of great challenges, DiFazio has remained true to himself. He will attend LaGuardia Community College this fall, where he will study radiologic technology.

“Sam embodies the heart and soul of WJPS,” said Janine Polla Werner, principal of World Journalism Preparatory School. “His shining example has made everyone, students and staff alike, better and kinder people. He has lit a path for other students to feel confident about who they are and who they can become.”

Honoree Leyenny Gonzalez’s persistence and determination led her to college.

For as long as she can remember, Gonzalez dreamed of going to college. Yet, as the daughter of immigrant parents who did not attend college, she struggled with the process, and because of financial hardship and challenges at home, she wasn’t sure her dream of attending college would be possible. Throughout her four years at Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology in the Bronx, Gonzalez excelled in the classroom and met as frequently as possible with her principal and college counselor, determined to make her dreams a reality. Gonzalez applied for as many scholarships as she could and this spring learned she had received a full ride to attend the University of Rochester, where she plans to study psychology and art history.

“Leyenny is a remarkable young woman,” said Maria Herrera, principal of Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology. “Life has presented her with some very tough challenges, yet she has worked through them and overcome obstacles in order to continue to strive and reach her goals. She takes advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow as an individual.”

Honoree Charlotte Nealy found herself in a new city and thrived in a new culture.

When Nealy began her freshman year at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in Manhattan, she had recently immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan, forging a new independence without her parents. Nealy initially struggled to communicate in a new language and find a sense of belonging in her new surroundings. But, with the support of her advisors, teachers and friends, she was able to find her voice and become an advocate for other students who faced similar struggles. Over her four years, Nealy achieved perfect attendance, completed two business internship programs, held a part-time job and was awarded the Principal Recognition Award. She will attend City College of New York’s School of Architecture and hopes to become an interior designer.

“Charlotte was one of the most outstanding students to graduate Hudson both academically and in terms of her social and emotional growth as a young woman in New York City,” said Phil Linder, senior team leader at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies. “She taught herself English, thrived in AP classes and was a true role model both to her peers and to younger students in our school.”