Celebrating the Class of 2020

This weekend the country came together to celebrate the Class of 2020, who are marking the major milestone of high school graduation in a very different way this year – and Urban Alliance students were front and center.

From our students’ faces popping up on CNN’s graduation special, to students sharing their thoughts on graduating during a pandemic on CBS News, Good Morning America, or the local news in DC and Chicago, Chicago intern Jeremiah Pope’s smooth dance moves during the nationwide Graduate Together special, and DC intern Christian ‘CJ’ Johnson delivering the closing line of the Graduate Together student commencement speech, Urban Alliance students showed the nation that joy and hope continue even now.

For Chicago student Aniyah Fisher, an intern at the Obama Foundation through our joint Obama Youth Jobs Corps program, the challenge of moving to a virtual graduation turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She had the honor of introducing President Barack Obama during his commencement message to the Class of 2020 – and received a personal shout-out from him to treasure for years to come. In case you missed it, here’s the video.

Our students come from communities of color which are being hit hardest by this pandemic, but they are remaining optimistic through it all. Though they won’t be walking across a stage to receive their diplomas or posing for photos with their friends in caps and gowns, they are still finding ways to celebrate their accomplishments and support one another, including by sharing some hard-won words of wisdom:

“We are able to persevere through anything, and we have to stay hopeful in these times.” – Christian ‘CJ’ Johnson, UA DC

“Stay positive during these tough times, connect with people that you care about, and most importantly, take care of yourselves.” – Eddie Frausto, UA Chicago

“It is easy to be discouraged in the circumstances that we are in, but instead, strive to be better and progress in the time you have during quarantine. There’ll never be a time where you will be given an opportunity like this.” – Hiwot Alemu, UA Northern Virginia

“Don’t get discouraged by this pandemic. There’s a lot of support and a lot of people out there who want to help us, so take advantage of that. As long as you stay focused and stay persistent, life after this pandemic will be, if not just as good, then greater than it was before.” – Airreona Godfrey, UA Detroit

“I know it’s hard to cope with the fact that we won’t have the ideal senior year, but college is going to be even better. Let’s just be hopeful that we will be able to attend college in the fall and start a new journey in our lives.” – Kiara Moore, UA Chicago

“Don’t give up, don’t lose hope, keep persisting, and let’s finish off strong. We’ve worked so hard to get to where we are, so let’s not surrender now.” – Isaac Albores, UA Northern Virginia

“We’re really excited about our future, and we’re not letting it dampen what we’re looking forward to.” – Alexis Jones, UA DC

Our students’ unceasing positivity is a lesson to us all during these tough times. We are so inspired by them, and can’t wait to see all that they accomplish on other side of this storm.