June 16 marked a special day for many students at the YSC Academy, as 19 students from the program walked across stage to happily receive their diploma at the Academy’s lower field.
Each graduate gave a speech thanking their faculty, family and classmates for the experience they had at the Academy.
"When I hear about their experiences, what resonates to me is the most important thing are the coaches, the teachers, or the other students," said Nooah Ahmed-Lee, Head of Students. "The relationships are the cornerstones and they are central and meaningful."
It was the third graduating class since the school opened in 2013, and it marked the largest graduating class in the school’s history. It was also the first class to have been in the Academy for all four years of their education.
As new players and students come and go throughout the YSC Academy, the bond, relationships formed and memories shared will remain forever.
Beverly Brooks, the Director of College & Career Counseling, was one faculty member who was overjoyed to see the students who she considers family, graduate.
“It was incredibly special and I feel very lucky to be a small part of these boys lives and this is a really special place,” Brooks said. “They understand sacrifice and hard work, dedication and it’s inspiring to work here. It makes me want to come to work every day.”
Carl Abramowitz, the Academy's English teacher, was another proud teacher, seeing his students receive a diploma.
"It's hard not to, on a day like to today, reflect on the young men they've become," Abramowitz said.
In addition to the faculty and family members who were in attendance for the graduation, members of the Philadelphia Union first-team and technical staff came to graduation, which served as a homecoming of sorts for both Derrick Jones, who graduated from the Academy, and Jim Curtin, who started his coaching career with the Academy.
"It's a special day. Congratulations to all the graduates," Curtin said. "This is a unique place. You can feel the sense of community all of the players have. Hearing all the students talk was truly special. If you're a parent who values education, this is the place you want to be. They way the kids learn here is unique. It sets them up for the rest of their lives."
"I'm so happy for these kids to graduated high school and move on to college," Jones added. "I wish them the best of luck."
Many of the boys in the program are the first to graduate from high school and move on to college. Brooks knows that when the boys enter college, they will continue the success they’ve had while at the Academy.
“To see them approach their learning, how and why they learn, they’re so intentional about it,” Brooks said. “I know when they go to college they’ll be successful about it just because of who they are.”
Seeing her students walk across the stage to receive their diploma holds a significant meaning to Brooks, as she strives to see her athletes succeed in all they do not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.
"When they say this is a family, it truly is and I feel very grateful to be a part of it,” Brooks said.
2017 YSC Graduating Class:
Omar Ayala - Duquesne University
Freeman Dwamena - California Polytechnic State University
Kalil ElMedkhar - University of Kentucky
Freddy Gil - University of South Florida
Evan Godfrey - Liberty University
Brandon Golden - Fordham University
Alex Hajj - Monmouth University
Juan Infante - Gettysburg College
Michael Kapokas - Immaculata University
Dawson McCartney - Dartmouth University
Mark McKenzie - Wake Forest University
Justin McMaster - Wake Forest University
Josue Monge - University of South Florida
Emmanuel Perez - California Polytechnic State University
Matt Real - Signed with Bethlehem Steel
Max Sakiewicz - University of Delaware
Arron Schwartz - Dartmouth College
Jahmali Waite - Farleigh Dickinson University
RC Williams - University of Pennsylvania