PHILADELPHIA — The Penn Wood High School graduating class of 2019 earned their rightful places on the floor of Temple University’s Liacouras Center Monday morning for the school’s latest commencement exercises.
Approximately 330 Patriots collected their diplomas to cap off the last four years of achievements in life, academics, sports and other areas to earn the title of high school graduate.
William Penn School District Superintendent Jane Ann Harbert was the first of the ceremony’s speakers, telling a story about her grandfather saying to her on her high school graduation day in the early-'70s that life after high school “won’t be easy, but I know you can do it.”
That message of school not being easy was carried over to salutatorian Danny Nguyen’s speech, taking aim at the public education system that has hampered schools with too much focus on content areas (particularly those on standardized tests) and the lack of appropriate resources and support that the school needs.
“You guys may be wondering what you are going to do with the knowledge from the SATs over the decades, and to most it may very well mean nothing. Overall, the school system is broken,” he said, generating enthusiastic applause. “While we may not need the unnecessary knowledge we learned in school, it was an important experience.”
Nguyen continued by congratulating the efforts of the football team who took the Del-Val Championship title again in 2018, the mock trial team for going to the state championship for the first time in over 20 years and the student body for being “the best dressed school of all time.”
But it hasn’t been easy for Nguyen and his graduating class as they see the limitations imposed on them from state level policy makers. (The school district is the lead plaintiff in a civil case against the state that will go to trial next summer to argue the state is not adequately funding public schools.)
“Through this lack of funding we’ve developed important skills,” he said. “As Penn Wood graduates we are built differently than other people from other schools. We don’t expect things to be given to us, we make use of what we have, which in turn creates innovators, engineers, doctors, artists and everything across the whole spectrum.”