August 5, 2021 – NEWARK, NJ – SEEDS – Access Changes Everything, a nonprofit that provides educational access to students from low-income households, proudly celebrated the graduation of 92 rising sixth, seventh, and ninth-graders part of its Scholars and Young Scholars programs. The commencement program, which took place Saturday, July 31 at Summit High School, was attended by family and friends of students, as well as SEEDS staff, faculty, trustees, alumni, and donors.
This year, 99 percent of graduating Scholars and Young Scholars were placed into selective schools with enough financial aid to allow them to matriculate. Students are enrolled in 62 schools across 14 states and will collectively receive more than $4.8 million in financial aid directly from the schools they will attend.
SEEDS President + CEO John F. Castano kicked off the ceremony with a welcome address, stating, “You could never have imagined this world you are living in; of taking your classes from home, applying to schools you had never visited… and then making plans to enroll there.” He continued, “On this, your graduation day from SEEDS, let’s put away that phrase “couldn’t have imagined…” that phrase that makes us feel tired, like we have missed out, like our life is less, and let’s take back our imagination today, your graduation day. Look at yourself – imagine everything you ever wanted actually happening. Challenges will always be here. But imagine, imagine all that is ahead. Imagine your best you. And I imagine, you will make it all come true.”
Following the welcome address, Director of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and SEEDS alum Bobby Codjoe ’02 spoke of his SEEDS experience and imparted words of wisdom upon the classes of 2021, “You all have made tremendous sacrifices to get to this point and those sacrifices will open doors for you that you may have never expected. As these doors open, I challenge you to define your own success. So wherever you go, find your joy, your enthusiasm your passion – put your best foot forward, and I have no doubt you’ll succeed.”
Before the presentation of diplomas, commencement speakers Jenene Hall (SP) and Iyanna Romans (YSP) shared their own experiences as scholars.
“When I learned about SEEDS, I knew I wanted to apply, but I didn’t know if I wanted to commit to the SEEDS process to get into an independent school,” said Hall. “With the support of my loving family, I survived the Summer Challenge Program and the selection process. There were times when I felt like giving up. I did not want to have to spend my time doing work while my friends were out having fun. But I remembered that I was working towards a goal that would help me achieve some of my biggest dreams not too far in the distance. Five more weeks of strenuous work, and now I am standing on this stage in front of you today as a graduate of SEEDS.”
“As a student, I was never educationally challenged before – I was always ahead,” said Romans. “I was like a walking answer sheet, knowing the answer to everything that came my way. That changed when it was time for YSP Step 2. During Step 2, I had to go through interviews, homework, essays, and more homework. Sometimes I would just have to cry it all out. Every tear was worth staying and worth working. I would like to thank SEEDS for helping me across the ocean line. If it were not for SEEDS I would still be swimming with the fish. I am now swimming with the sharks.”
The Scholars and Young Scholars Programs are free 14-month initiatives for high-achieving, low-income students. SEEDS provides its scholars with rigorous academic classes over the course of two summers and the Saturdays in between. The Scholars Program serves students across the state during their eighth-grade year, providing additional coursework and application assistance for selective high schools. The Young Scholars Program works with students in the Greater Newark area in the fifth and sixth grades; in addition to academic classes, SEEDS helps students and their families with applications to selective day and junior boarding schools.
Class of 2021: Young Scholars Program
Nanakwasi Adutwum-Addae, Sekario Crossman, Isaiah Flanagan, Brittney Guaillasaca Quizhpi, Xavier Lake, David Mensah, Oluwabusayo Olaoye, Mashari Perry, Zoi Ramirez, Taylor Ransome, Iyanna Romans, Rereloluwa Somorin, Malachi Stephens, Nicholas Tucker, Kassidy Wilson
Class of 2021: Scholars Program
Lovena Agyei, Ava Antwi, Bianca Araujo, Noelani Araya-Rojas, Hector Audelo Gutierrez, Ijeoma Azuike, Shiann Barker, Mike Barrera, Bradley Barrera, Julissa Beltran, Naiya Bharvad, Nathan Blaya-Diez, Darius Brown, Anel Cabrera, Nathaniel Caminero, Eva Castillo, Jasmin Clark, Zariah Cooper, Naomi Craig, Jesaiah Curden, Samina Dargan, Charrise Darsaw, Lais De Souza, Natasha Elleston, Tiffany Ezeanuna, Ashley Flores, Allison Garcia, Muthoni Gichingiri, Alexandra Godoy,
Ashantae Gordon, Jenene Hall, Amirah Hassan, Maryanne Hermo, Julissa Hernandez, Taniyah Heyward, Jimmy Jones, Tapleen Kaur, Deshan Kawatra, Velizar Lazarov, Ethan Liendo, Delilah Lopez, Ariana Lopez Orellana, Valerie Madriz Montero, Deanna Martinez, Aleesha Mahmood, Rasheed Mcgrath, Mario Meneses, Trashgim Mulosmani, Alexis Mumbo, Jacob Nahui, Johnson Ngota, Aikamjot Nijjar, Esther Ojo, Chisom Okeoma, Bimbola Olaleye, Ejemen Omonzane, Nicole Onuoha, Esmeralda Ortiz-Rodriguez, Toyin Oyediran, Aniyaha Perez, Gianna Persaud, Maryliz Peters, Meleny Pion, Micaela Quintero, Deysi Rodriguez, Nicolas Rodríguez Lopez, Lourdes Ronquillo, Enzo Sarango, Rajwans Sindhar, Arshbir Singh, Michael Soto, Grace Thompson, Sebastian Tobar, Maiyisha Ulysse, Alyssa Wooden, Achraf Zemzami, Zoe Zuloaga
For high-resolution photos of this year’s event, please contact Jasmine Guerra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About SEEDS – Access Changes Everything
Founded in 1992, SEEDS – Access Changes Everything is a nonprofit organization that provides motivated, high-achieving, low-income students with access to top-tier education that would have otherwise been unattainable due to socioeconomic status. Through three challenging academic programs, SEEDS aims to prepare students of various grade levels for eventual placement into competitive private schools and colleges across the country.
SEEDS has been recognized locally and nationally by leading organizations including the Althea Gibson Foundation, Bank of America, Jersey Cares, Mutual of America, Oprah’s Angel Network, the Partnership in Philanthropy, and Rutgers University. In addition, Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of the financial health and efficiency of nonprofit organizations, has awarded SEEDS four consecutive 4-star ratings, its highest rating.