Two Allen School top performers, Tamara Pinder from the Brooklyn campus, and Leonilla Jewell from the Queens campus, both with 4.0 GPAs and exceptional attendance, gave inspirational speeches to the large audience at Allen School’s Graduation 2008 on Friday, June 6th at the Queens College Colden Auditorium in Flushing, NY.
Ms. Pinder referred to 2008 as being an election year in which there are a few unusual “firsts.” She was referring to the first African-American candidate to go as far as Barack Obama, to the first woman candidate to go as far as Hillary Clinton, and to the first candidate for election to president over the age of seventy, John McCain. She encouraged her classmates to strive to accomplish other “firsts” in their upcoming careers.
Ms. Jewell’s address encompassed the intrinsic contribution that family makes to success in the medical field. She included in her description of family her immediate family, her classmates, and the doctors, patients and co-workers at her job at the cardiology practice where she did her internship.
“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that “individuality” is the key to success
,” [Robert Orben, official speechwriter to former President Gerald Ford]
Individuality took many forms within the 2000 attendees at the graduation ceremony. Yes, there were the caps and gowns, the traditional uniform of graduation. The individuality was represented in full measure by the unique international flavor of the Allen School student body. The variety of awards acknowledging the accomplishments and skills of the many graduates showcased individuality, as well.
Quiet Reflection by Eddy Whitten, Jamaica’s Director of Admissions, began the ceremony. Whitten asked the graduates to reflect upon the strong connections they may have made to someone of another culture while at Allen School, or positive interactions with instructors who may have become mentors, or times at which laughter literally made their sides hurt. He expressed confidence that, throughout their lives, the graduates would experience clarifying moments at which certain fond memories would be evoked, reveries that related to time spent at Allen School and the people, knowledge and challenges shared and met there.
Current Queens Medical Assistant student, Sheneé Johnson, performed America the Beautiful in a clear, powerful voice that filled the vast recesses of the large auditorium.
Opening Remarks were made by Jamaica campus School Director, Annette Jill Luke, who, during her dedicated thirty years at Allen School, has shepherded thousands of graduates on their way to medical careers. Mrs. Luke spoke about the Allen School “network of lifelong connections” fostered by the programs, drawing a parallel between that “network” and that of the mega telecommunications company that showcases a network in its marketing.
Brooklyn’s Placement Director, Emelinda Jackson, delivered Words of Wisdom, warmly encouraging the grads to “never give up.” Ms. Jackson acknowledged this year’s graduates as the “cream of the crop,” noting that some them will, as has always been the case, “start out as Medical and Nursing Assistants and end up as doctors.” She recited the names of Career Development Award winners.
Mike Perez, Director of Admissions and Robert Jannicelli, MD, Academic Dean, both from the Brooklyn campus, did the Distribution of Diplomas, calling out the names of the hundreds of accomplished graduates who strode proudly across the stage to shake hands with Robert Teich and Jason Teich, President and Vice President respectively of the Allen School.
Dean Brian Ross of the Queens campus provided the Presentation of the Graduates to President Teich, acknowledging Mr. Teich’s profound personal commitment to the well-being of his students and lifelong dedication to putting their needs above all others.
The Professional Code for Health Career Graduates was read by Dean Gail Skeete of Brooklyn affirming that the new graduates, now full-fledged members of the global healthcare team, will be guided by their training and their individual hearts, and strive to be the best healthcare professionals possible.
Closing Remarks were made by Brooklyn campus Director Lillian Mitchell, whose devoted twenty-five year commitment to Allen School has helped to launch the careers of thousands of graduates. Mrs. Mitchell drew attention to the fact that the opportunity to obtain an education, an opportunity denied to most of the world’s people, is one to be recognized as a true privilege by the graduates. She urged them to “go forth” to make her and everyone at the Allen School proud.
The graduates streamed out of the auditorium to join families, friends and faculty members for photos. Graduation caps and gowns, balloons, teddy bears and scrolled diplomas, were bathed in brilliant sunshine as the end of the grads’ time at Allen School and the first day of their individual futures were memorialized.
LEONILLA JEWELL, STUDENT SPEAKER, QUEENS
ALLEN SCHOOL “IDOL,” SHENEÉ JOHNSON, SINGS AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
Paula Abdul, Randy Johnson and Simon Cowell were not planning to judge the Allen School Idol Contest being planned to choose someone to sing at Graduation 2008. But, a contest would not be necessary. The perfect singer, Sheneé Johnson, a true Idol, was discovered by sheer coincidence.
Johnson, a current Queens Medical Assistant student, was overheard singing one recent afternoon by Instructor Josephine Te whose ability to know talent when she sees it is without equal. Ms. Te recruited Sheneé on-the-spot to perform America the Beautiful at the graduation ceremony. What an idol she turned out to be and what a talent scout Ms. Te turned out to be!
Sheneé is a member of a famous musical family, the legendary Poindexters, who were featured in an article in May 2008’s Jet Magazine. The Poindexters wrote the song, “Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” made famous by the Persuaders and Annie Lennox, and featured in the 1996 Martin Lawrence film of the same name. Johnson, herself, started singing at the age of four. Her parents, who were singing in church for as long as Sheneé can remember, moved the family from Virginia to New York when she was eleven and Sheneé kept on singing.
Sheneé is also a “communitarian”- in the truest sense of the word. She and her husband, a motivational speaker and community mentor, hold peer group sessions, counseling youths aged 12-17 in a donated space within District 12 in Jamaica, Queens. At any given time, there are approximately fifteen youth participating, many recruited right off the street.
The Johnsons also created a basketball team, the Southside Allstars, whose slogan is “Playing for Success.” In order to participate, the youths “must maintain good grades and stay out of trouble,” said Sheneé. Their first tournament was on June 1st.
Sheneé Johnson, with a voice as pure as her heart and with her heart dedicated to “liberating strife” in her community, performed the majestic song, America the Beautiful, movingly and powerfully at Graduation 2008. It came as no surprise that she would handle it so well. After all, she, a community hero and future Allen School Medical Assistant graduate, embodies the lyrics in one of the inspiring song’s memorable stanzas:
“…O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
(If any of the American Idol judges retire, maybe Ms. Te can apply for a position!)