CTE Recognition: 336 students honored at Career Services ceremony

Watch the full ceremony above. For more photos, visit the SWBOCES Facebook page.

Valedictorian tells classmates, 'We are all able to make tomorrow a brighter day'

CTE recognition returns to historic Westchester County Center 

As the students and instructors lined up according to their respective programs and stood ready for their procession into the Westchester County Center, there was a brief delay. The crowd of parents and well-wishers had grown so large, event staff had to open the balcony to provide overflow seating for spectators.

The Center for Career Services annual Recognition Ceremony, which was held on June 13, 2024, was a sprawling event that paid tribute to 336 members of the Class of 2024 who hail from Southern Westchester BOCES’ component districts.

After the crowd was seated, the event began with the festive entry of students, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by New Rochelle’s Kevin Montufar, a Security, Law and Policing student who has enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and Eagle Scout Michael Cacioppo a student in Security, Law and Policing who will be attending the University of Alabama. A rendition of the National Anthem followed and was performed by Sanaa Donaé Alexandre, a Woodlands High School student who studied TV/Video Production and will attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to study filmmaking.

The ceremony continued with addresses from Dahlia A. Jackson, the Director of the Center for Career Services; Dr. Brendan Lyons, Deputy Superintendent/COO; and CTE Class of 2024 Salutatorian Jae-Ah-Lee, an Edgemont High School student who studied Culinary Arts and will attend The Culinary Institute of Technology.

The next speaker was Brooke Murphy of Eastchester, who detailed the risk she took and the reward she felt after enrolling as the only female student in the Collision Technology program. “It proved that through hard work and passion you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” Murphy said.

Following her address came a video presentation about the Center for Career Services and the Valedictorian's address, given by New Rochelle’s Amy Diaz, a student in the Animal Sciences program. Diaz will attend Mercy University. She implored her fellow classmates to believe they have the skills and talent to make a difference in the world.

“We made it to today,” Diaz said, “and we are all able to make tomorrow a brighter day.”

District Superintendent, Dr. Harold A. Coles, proudly outlined all of the entrepreneurial opportunities students were granted through the Career and Technical Education program. He also highlighted and detailed many of their successes in contests and competitions that allowed the students to showcase the skills they learned during the school year.

Ms. Jackson and Assistant Principal Phil Donohue then acknowledged four retirees: Principal Evangelo Michas, Teacher Michael Ward, Teaching Assistant Flora Cardinale, and Office Assistant Yvette Herrera. 

Four scholarship awards were announced, including the newly-created Barbara E. Chin Scholarship. Ms. Chin, a longtime BOCES instructor, who died in January three weeks after her 90th birthday, received an introductory tribute from her niece, Ms. Ingrid Dixon. Ms. Dixon then presented $500 scholarships to four Cosmetology students: Lotti Drinkwine of Pelham, Esmerelda Navarro Magallon of Port Chester, Taylar Mitura of Westlake and Gabriela Rodriguez of Eastchester.

The awards were part of a scholarship fund of $20,000 established this school year with the Southern Westchester BOCES Education Foundation in honor of Ms. Chin.

The Kristopher Earl Johnson Memorial Scholarship was established in 2024 in memory of Kristopher Earl Johnson and was presented by his mother, Monica Mann, and will  support a student pursuing a career in a trade who exemplifies Kristopher’s character and ability to handle challenges and overcome life’s difficulties. 

The Falens Project Scholarship, presented by Darlene Brice and Gael Bruno,  is named in honor of the late Falens Bruno, a former employee of Southern Westchester BOCES. It was designed to assist two deserving students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership potential and a commitment to their community.

Administrators, Board of Education members, teachers and staff members presented the members of the Class of 2024 with certificates. Students were cheered, then posed with classmates and instructors in group photos at the foot of the stage. 

The ceremony ended with an address from guest speaker Aaron Anderson, a 2022 CTE graduate who is already an award-winning student chef. Anderson gave a brief summary of his journey and what’s he has learned, before sending off the graduates with a message to remember:

“To this day,” Anderson said, “I use the skills I learned at BOCES every day.”

For more photos, visit the SWBOCES Facebook page.