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MILPITAS, CA - Families, Board Members, Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, Principals, school administrators, and Mayor Rich Tran came together for an evening of celebration during the African American Student Achievement Award Ceremony on February 9 in the Milpitas High School theater.
“There are two awards that students were nominated for: the outstanding academic achievement award and the outstanding accomplishment award,” explained event host Venus Cenizal, MUSD Coordinator of Learning and Development. “Students who excel in at least one academic area receive the outstanding academic award and students who have had a specific accomplishment, demonstrated social and emotional maturity, and/or demonstrated resiliency in the face of adversity are awarded for outstanding accomplishments.”
Board Members and guests from the City of Milpitas formed a receiving line to shake hands with the 44 total students who were recognized that evening, from the elementary to high school level throughout the district.
“I want to tell each one of you young leaders, that you make us very proud and we are glad to be here tonight to celebrate you,” Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said.
Raquel Kusunoki, Director of Elementary Education, introduced the elementary administrators and student recipients while Russell Principal Damon James and Rancho Principal Casey McMurray recognized their recipients followed by Milpitas High School Principal Phil Morales and Calaveras Hills High School Principal Carl Stice.
During a poignant keynote speech, Fr. Jon Pedigo from the Diocese of San Jose spoke about systemic injustice and how to overcome obstacles.
“You got to believe that you’re going to be successful. You gotta believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you,” he said.
Following the speech, Principal Damon James shared his thoughts about the message that he said moved him.
“One of the things that I think about when I was growing up, what my parents talked to me about it, was how victorious our ancestors have been,” he said. “So when you think about that hope, all of you remember that victory.”
Members from Akoma Arts also attended the event, to perform a community chant from Assata Shakur and a dance piece called Africana.
At the end of the program, Venus asked honorees to look at the rose they received that evening, in addition to their certificate.
“Let’s take a moment to think about your parents, your family members, and all those who believed in you, encouraged you, and supported you in order to be able to receive this award,” Venus said. “The rose you received, dear recipients, is for you to honor those in the audience this evening who have been part of your achievement and accomplishments. At the closing of the program, please honor your loved ones by giving them the rose that you’re holding."