May is here! Commemorating End of School Year And Celebrating New Beginnings

Posted by Sharonica L. Hardin-Bartley, PhD PHR on 5/26/2023 8:00:00 AM

052223 UCHS Grads

Sharonica Hardin-BartleyGood afternoon School District of University City Community: 

May is here! There’s so much excitement in the air as we commemorate the end of the 2022-23 school year and the start of summer. We celebrated with lovely transition activities for our students, especially in grades five and eight. Our preschoolers felt particularly special thanks to not one, but two car parades that wound through the nearby streets of U. City. What a way to show up for our future kindergartners!

Yes, our scholars are poised to move ahead on their learning journey! I am incredibly proud of them – particularly, the UCHS Class of 2023, which we celebrated on Monday, May 22, at a spirited graduation ceremony at Chaifetz Arena that included inspiring speeches, beautiful regalia and the spirit of U Time.

Our student commencement speakers, Zoe White, Aliyah Goodman and Michael Simmons, spoke about community, togetherness, excellence, social justice, and all our school district community has done to help prepare them for their next chapter in life. They shouted out to several staff members and reminisced about their journey that began in kindergarten for some. 

Michael concluded his remarks by embracing the spirit of Ubuntu. His words tugged at my heart because I truly aim to create a school system that lives the meaning of Ubuntu: “I am because we are.” 

During my remarks, I shared that the Class of ‘23 holds a special place in my heart. When I began my journey as the District’s superintendent, our scholars were starting middle school as sixth graders. They were precocious – and so bold. As middle schoolers, they embraced challenges and took action on adult issues pertaining to environmental sustainability, supporting local immigrants, promoting well-being in their school, inclusion and equity. In the years to come, their leadership grew. They took on gun violence, advocated for social justice and created our signature Growing Together event that every year enables our community to garden and grow healthy fruits and vegetables. Their first year of high school coincided with a global pandemic. There was so much hardship and disruption, yet they persevered and kept moving forward with remarkable accomplishments. 

On Saturday, May 20th, 16 students in our early college program received associate’s degrees from St. Louis Community College Forest Park and were cheered on by U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush! One of those students - Michael Simmons - sat on her Youth Advisory Council. The Early College Experience is a challenging program. Students take college level courses, starting at age 15, and spend most of their senior year on a college campus while still participating in high school athletics, clubs and student leadership groups. And, now they are poised to go to prestigious four-year colleges with two full years of free credits already completed. This exemplifies equity, resolve and courage, all in the spirit of Learning Reimagined.

Each student in the Class of 2023 has a story. Let me share just one, because it, again, demonstrates intensive courage and strength. New graduate Gia Ward maintained a B average during her four years of high school. She excelled in the District’s Construction Careers pathway. She and her fellow students have built sheds for our schools, rainwater collection systems, shelving for food and clothing pantries and more. Gia hopes to pursue an apprenticeship through the PATTS program (pre-apprentice tactical training school), where she will learn skills for a career in carpentry, or she may attend Ranken Technical College. She has hopes, skills and resolve for her future, even as she is dealing with a recent diagnosis of stage 1 ovarian cancer and surgery just a few weeks ago. Her treatment includes chemotherapy, including a session just before her graduation ceremony. Our staff was there for her that evening - and she walked across the stage with her diploma. Gia is a fighter. Her U. City family is with her, and I can’t wait to hear about her progress and her many chapters to come. And, yes, she is a proud member of the University City High School Class of 2023.  

I left the Class of 2023 with a few words of inspiration when I channeled my inner Wakanda. I shared a quote for the late Chadwick Boseman, otherwise known as T’Challaas in his marvelous role in Black Panther: “Savor the taste of your triumphs today. Don’t swallow them whole without digesting what is actually happening here. Look down over what you have conquered and appreciate what…has brought you through.”  

As we head into summer, please relax and enjoy time with your family/friends. I look forward to seeing you next school year. Remember, if your child is attending Camp U, the first day is Monday, June 5th! 

Be well, UCity Community.