Synergy students overcome obstacles to graduate

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Jun. 20, 2011
Dally Ortiz and Jesus Tirado on graduation day at Synergy Alternative High School. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Dally Ortiz and Jesus Tirado on graduation day at Synergy Alternative High School. Photos by Frances Taylor.

At his graduation on June 17, Ted Brown reflected on what life was like before he went to Synergy Alternative High School. “Every day, I would sit in the lunch room and isolate myself from others. I was depressed all the time and didn't know what direction to turn,” said Brown. “I felt like the only option I had at the moment was to give up.”

Brown was a speaker during the Synergy’s commencement ceremony held at East Hartford Middle School. The graduating class of 66 students cheered as Brown and other fellow classmates stood at the podium to talk about their struggles and triumphs.

“Once I got to Synergy, I took all my energy and directed it in a positive way,” Brown said. “I was determined to prove to myself and to others that I could use my mistakes and learn from them and build a bright future.”

Where other schools might turn to their valedictorians or to prominent community members to speak on graduation day, “it is the tradition at Synergy to let our students speak to each other,” said Principal John F, Karzar.

The school, also know as Stevens Alternative High School, specializes in helping students with particular social or behavioral needs to navigate their high school years.

Martina Cranford fell behind in school after the birth of her son, Tristan, while a senior at East Hartford High School. She earned her graduation credits at Synergy High, and has begun working to support herself and her son.

“I just want to let my fellow classmates know that when one door closes, another will open, and that obstacles are going to come your way. And when they do, don't give up, because I'm not,” Cranford said.

Members of the graduating class received awards for community service and integrity, as well as others in more non-traditional categories. Joseph Cooley and Cristyne Figueroa won Community Service Awards; Kusi Baffour and Ted Brown won the Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win Award, given to students who overcome significant obstacles to graduate; Betsy Valentin won the Peer Support Award, given to those who go above and beyond to help their classmates.

“For the past two years I have attended Synergy High School, believe it or not, I've learned more than I ever have in the past,” Valentin said. “I've been ‘synergized’ – I've learned to trust others and have patience, and most of all, I've learned that I should never give up on what I really want.”

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