“I Will Graduate Day” was hosted at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn with thousands of kids, political figures, internet sensations and celebrities in attendance to celebrate the beauty and power of education.
New York State Attorney General Leticia James, Brooklyn Borough Pres. Eric Adams, New York City Council Woman Farah Louis, Shiggy (a social media influencer), Angela Yee (radio personality) and Ron Suno (Instagram comedian) were some of the prominent figures to speak to the students and encourage them, while also hyping them up with performances on stage.
“I would like ‘I Will Graduate Day’ to be recognized as a national day across America,” states Tonya Lewis Taylor, the C.E.O of the “I Will Graduate” youth development program. “My goal is to make sure kids all around the country understand that they must graduate from high school and college in order to pursue their dreams.”
According to Department of Education statistics, in 2019 approximately 77% of students obtained their degrees and dropout rates fell to 7.5%.
“It is so important for students to have models and mentors so that they can follow and absolutely have people standing behind them every single day so that they can be successful,” states Principal Maria Ortega. Internet sensation and comedian known for creating the popular “Keke, do you love me?” dance to artist Drake’s “In My Feelings,” Shiggy, also had a message for the kids. “Wake up in the morning, go to sleep and eat your breakfast! It sounds crazy but listen, these are very important tools…don’t be a fool, stay in school, be consistent and persistent!”
As a native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, this event hit close to home for Angela Yee, the radio personality who is popularly known as one of the co-hosts on 105.1’s, The Breakfast Club. “Coming back here and seeing kids that are just like how I was when I was growing up means a lot to me and I think about what I was like when I was younger and where I am right now and I wouldn’t have envisioned that for myself but I imagine if I would have envisioned that for myself when I was their age, how much further along I could have been in life. I just want to encourage kids right now to dream really big and in order to achieve your dreams you have to get your education. Whatever education that is, it’s going to vary depending on what you want to do but always stay learning.”
The award winning program with Entertainers 4 Education Alliance also strives to prevent students from dropping out through engaging the youth and parents in programs. Talents and people in the entertainment industry are enlisted as well to spread the message of students furthering their education.
“I’m very excited because I was a previous employee. Tonya Lewis allowed me to be a mascot for her program. I was able to come and speak to all the students every other day and come in and make a difference by being that person to merge both entertainment and education together,” says Avery Watson, C.E.O, publicist and digital marketing strategist.
Taylor’s goal for the future of “I Will Graduate” is to not only have it recognized as a national day across America, but to also have it at places such as the Barclays and Madison Square Garden with 20,000 screaming kids.