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With Schools Closed Through June, High School Seniors Miss Rites Of Passage

Graduating senior Ashley German (center), with her former teacher Meliza Prieto and Prieto’s husband Candinho Gomes at the Union College admitted-students day. (Courtesy Ashley German)
Graduating senior Ashley German (center), with her former teacher Meliza Prieto and Prieto’s husband Candinho Gomes at the Union College admitted-students day. (Courtesy Ashley German)
This article is more than 2 years old.

Ashley German has had plenty of time to think about her high school graduation. Down to the moment when her name was called.

“You would just hear the screams," she imagined. "You would see the Dominican flag being thrown up. You just would see a bunch of people just making noise for me.”

And not just for the 17 year old, graduating as class president of Boston Community Leadership Academy. It would’ve been for her twin brother Javier, too, across town at Madison Park.

This spring, the two were set to become the first people in their family to graduate high school. For Ashley at least, that noisy vision kept her going:

“It wasn’t just to prove to myself," she said. "It was also to prove my family that we don’t have to run like my parents did. We can make it.”

German’s parents split up after emigrating from the Dominican Republic. Her mother worked odd jobs, but it wasn’t always enough for rent.

When Ashley and her brother were in sixth grade at the McCormack School in Dorchester, her mom got them a spot in a state-run shelter. But it was in Attleboro, 36 miles from school. And as they arranged for a bus, the transition cost Ashley and Javier class time.

“In total, I missed a month and 18 days," she said. "And I always remember that: because that’s a month and 18 days that I had to play catch-up.”

The family bounced around after that: from Attleboro to an older brother’s home, finally settling in Weymouth. Still, German kept coming to class in Boston. It was the stability in an unstable life.

"I knew that school would always be there," she said. "My teachers were always gonna be there. Well, up until now.”

Gov. Baker may have been thinking of students like Ashley German when he spoke directly to high school seniors Tuesday, after announcing the order to close schools.

"For all of the seniors, you should keep your heads up," Baker said. "The end of the year may not proceed as planned. But there will be, because there always are, brighter days ahead.”

It may be the emotions of the moment, but those words of encouragement didn't cut it for German.

"It was like, 'OK, but what are you gonna do? How are we gonna get recognized?'" she said.

But then, she herself doesn't know what form that recognition could take.

For now, German feels like she's playing catch-up again. Cram sessions for AP calculus now take place in late-night video chats. And as much as she loves her school, she's worried that wealthier districts adjusted more seamlessly to the new reality.

"Online schooling — it's new to [teachers] and it's new to us," she said. "I don't think it's as effective as they want it to be. When we go to college, there's going to be a significant gap."

German will go to college. She won a prestigious Posse scholarship that will cover all her tuition at Union College in upstate New York. For now, Union plans to reopen their campus in time for the fall semester. Then college graduation would be four short years away.

Max Larkin Twitter Reporter, Education
Max Larkin is an education reporter.



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