Students Honored at Stay in School Assembly

BOSTON – Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Furthering Mandela’s point, studies show that students who have perfect attendance are more likely to be on the honor roll, thus solidifying the fact that perfect attendance is a key to success.

With those thoughts in mind, the Boston Celtics hosted the 20th annual Stay in School assembly, sponsored by Arbella insurance, on the morning of Thursday, May 26.

More than 1,000 Boston Public Middle School students attended the assembly held at Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University. Students were honored for their perfect attendance on the school year, art and writing contest submissions, improvements in behavior and academics, and for having perfect attendance throughout their middle school careers.

The assembly brought together a range of speakers and performers, from Celtics President Rich Gotham to Northeastern University professor and hip-hop performer, Lyrical. Every speaker delivered a motivational speech to the students for their impressive accomplishments in the classroom.

Gotham spoke of inspiration. “We’ve been a little down and out after losing in the second round of the playoffs, but looking out into the crowd this morning, you all serve as our inspiration. Over 500 of you had perfect attendance this year and that is truly amazing,” remarked Gotham. “You overcame obstacles to attend school every day and I know our team will rebound as well.”

Superintendant of Boston Public Schools, Dr. Carol Johnson, encouraged the students to never give up on their dreams.

“How many of you watched the Celtics playoff game against the Heat when Rajon Rondo injured his elbow?” she asked. As hands flew in the air, Dr. Johnson continued, “I can see by the hands that a lot of you are loyal Celtics fan. When Rondo got injured, he had to leave the game. Many thought he wouldn’t come back but he’s a competitor and he found a way to return to the game. I want you all to learn from him. Don’t ever give up and never stop trying, just like Rondo.”

Following Dr. Johnson, Celtics legend Dana Barros addressed the students.

“I’m going to talk to you all about circumstances. Circumstances are something that I always talk about because I’ve had to overcome them all my life. My parents were 15 when they had me and I was raised by my grandmother,” recalled Barros. “I fell in love with basketball at a young age after watching my father play in a college game. I was a small kid and people told me I wouldn’t be able to play in the NBA. Wanting to prove them wrong, I played basketball every day from sunup to sundown. If I didn’t make the NBA it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t work hard enough. I ended up reaching my goals. If you take anything from what I’ve said today please choose your passion in life and work extremely hard to reach that goal.”

The keynote speaker for the assembly, Lyrical, engaged the students as they attentively listened to every inspirational word of his speech and rap performances. Lyrical spoke about the misconceptions of the entertainment industry. Many believe that rappers make a lot of money when in truth, the majority of their income derives from performances and not record deals.

Rapper Lyrical performs in front of hundreds of students at the 20th annual Stay in School Assembly.
Ashley Earle/Boston Celtics

“It’s hard to be a rapper,” said Lyrical. “It takes time and dedication to reach a high level. I remember my friends all going to the movies when I was young but I stayed home in order to write lyrics and do homework. I knew I wanted to rap and I also knew that I loved math. To do something at an incredible level takes sacrifice just like what you guys are doing at school every day.“

Lyrical eventually reached his dreams as he became a talented rapper and a math professor!

In addition to the motivational words of the speakers, the students were awarded prizes for their efforts in the classroom. More than 700 students received either a mini basketball hoop for first prize or a Stay in School fan banner for honorable mention in the writing and art contests. As Gotham had mentioned in his speech, more 500 students had perfect attendance for the 2010-11 school year. Thus, each student received a mini speaker for their tremendous achievement. Further, 14 students joined the “3-Year Club” and received a Ray Allen autographed plaque and Converse or Reebok sneakers for having perfect attendance throughout their middle school careers!

Every school also recognized a student as their M.I.P. (Most Improved Pupil). These students were nominated for improving their academic and leadership roles in their schools. For their improvements, the students also received a Ray Allen autographed plaque and Reebok or Converse shoes. Additionally, each school received an M.I.P. banner with the name of the student to be displayed at their respective schools.

The students’ faces coming off of the stage after receiving their awards were priceless. It was obvious that they were appreciative of the recognition.

As the assembly came to a close, one teacher remarked, “Great program! This event is always first-class!”

Just like the students who were honored there.