This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!
When I first came to the LEAP Academy University Charter School district, I never realized that I would be forced to think about my long-term goals and plans. I was only in the 6th grade at the time, and the most I had ever thought about my future was when adults would randomly ask me about what I wanted to become when I grew up. Coming to LEAP Academy changed my entire perspective on life and my power to shape my future. LEAP Academy doesn’t just enroll students into their school, they initiate students into a pipeline. In impoverished cities like Camden, N.J., schools can serve as a pipeline to prison. However, LEAP Academy has created a pipeline to college. From the very first moment I came to LEAP I have been intimately involved in writing each chapter of my life as a student leader. LEAP Academy empowered me to serve as the author of my own destiny. Each learning experience has molded and shaped me into the person that I aspire to become one day. In many ways, LEAP Academy inspired me to strive for perfection.
As the LEAP Academy Class of 2019 valedictorian, I will have the distinct privilege of addressing my fellow classmates at our commencement ceremony. Although I am not quite sure exactly what my message will be yet, I do know that I will encourage my fellow graduates to never be afraid of striving for perfection. LEAP Academy has taught me that there is never an endpoint for learning because it is a lifelong process. We are all capable of growing and changing, regardless of what age we are. We all have the power to improve little by little each and every day. LEAP has taught me the meaning of continuous improvement, because perfection is not something that can be accomplished in an instant. It takes hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and willpower to reach perfection—LEAP Academy equips students with the opportunities and resources to transform from good to great to perfect!
I first began taking college courses at LEAP Academy as a rising freshman. It was truly intimidating to sit in a classroom of LEAP upperclassmen in an introduction to psychology course. However, the experience also prepared me to take on even more difficult and challenging coursework. As a sophomore, I had the opportunity to take a college composition course, which helped me to better understand that achieving perfection is much more about the process than just the destination. Through countless drafts and revisions of essays, I was able to steadily improve my writing abilities. This opportunity also helped me to prove that I could compete against the best in higher education thus my LEAP teachers and administrators continued to advocate for more dual-enrollment opportunities for myself and my fellow LEAP classmates. Now that I am a graduating senior, LEAP has provided me with the opportunity to build my own schedule of college coursework including physics, calculus, French, and sculpting. I will graduate from LEAP Academy with over fifty credits through the LEAP Early College Program, which speaks the effectiveness of the LEAP Academy Birth-to-College Pipeline. When I recently received acceptances to the Columbia University School of Engineering and Swarthmore College, I viewed the news as a new beginning and not the end point. Perfection is about the process of the journey, and LEAP Academy has truly perfected the process of supporting students to maximize their potential.
Peter Riera is a graduate of the LEAP Academy University Charter School. He will attend Columbia University or Swarthmore College in the fall.
[Click to Tweet] Class valedictorian Peter Riera reflects back on his time at @LEAPacademy charter school as he prepares for the next step #CharterGrads