It had already been a memorable month of June for Akram Bikoni. He had attended his first prom and, the same day, had become an American citizen.
And on June 14, Bikoni joined the other members of the Class of 2022 at the Arlington Career Center in graduation ceremonies held at Washington-Liberty High School.
Not bad for a young man, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who couldn’t go to school until his family came to the United States when he was 11 years old.
“My parents’ sacrifice was not in vain – they wanted to give us an opportunity,” he told his classmates. “Because of that, I am here today.”
Bikoni was attending secondary school in Wakefield when, three years ago, he switched to the Career Center’s English Learner Institute. Although initially unhappy with the prospect, it turned out to be “the best thing,” Bikoni said, with the Career Center becoming “an extended family to me.”
The English Learner Institute is one of a number of programs offered by the Career Center. Another is the new Arlington Tech program, where students learn through project-based programs.
Lina Barclay, only in the program’s third class, said opting out of a more traditional high school experience was a gamble, but one that paid off.
“We’ve been well prepared for everything new,” she said, saying the pandemic era has provided students with “valuable lessons in self-control, motivation and true adaptability.”
Career Center Academy graduate student Kyla Zientara said the close-knit program and its faculty have “become my rock” through good times and bad, providing “nothing but love and support.” .
“The Academy is such a special place where no matter who you are, you are accepted and pushed to be a stronger version of yourself,” Zientara said.
His advice to other members of the Class of 2022? “Don’t be afraid to be an advocate for yourself,” she said. “No one knows you better. »
Also honored were graduates of the Employment Readiness Program, or PEP, which provides additional training for people between the ages of 18 and 22 before they enter the workforce.
Michael Bustamante, who has been studying automotive technology at PEP for four years and will continue those studies at Northern Virginia Community College, praised the staff for “the motivation they gave me to never give up.”
“I really enjoyed my time,” he said.
Career Center director Margaret Chung said no matter what course of study they took, the Class of 2022 demonstrated “resilience, caring and a deep sense of how to build a community”.
“Your brilliant optimism has inspired us all to rally together,” she said. “We are better thanks to you.”
“Soak up this moment,” Chung said. “What you have accomplished is monumental.”
The students have, indeed, permeated the moment. But that was only the first item on the list of pending tasks.
“Let’s go change this world,” Bikoni said.
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