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Baystate Academy Charter Public School prepares to graduate first class

Date Published: May 24, 2019

Author: Carolyn Robbins

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Academy Charter Public School was established in 2013 in partnership with Baystate Health to prepare students for college and health and science careers.

On June 8, when the school’s first graduates accept their diplomas, they will have realized the dreams of the school’s founders.

“The 43 members of the Class of 2019 are all headed to two- and four-year colleges,” said Baystate Academy’s Executive Director Timothy Sneed, adding that many of the graduates are planning to prepare for careers in research science and health care.

Sylvan Curry, for example, is headed to the University of Massachusetts to attend the university’s bio pioneers program.

In addition to his Baystate Academy diploma, Curry will be receiving an associate degree from Springfield Technical Community College where he was a dual enrollment student.

“I’m interested in neuroscience research,” Curry said, explaining that he lost a member of his family to an illness related to brain function.

Students like Curry and Zarria Washington, who is headed to Xavier University in New Orleans as a pre-med student, say their school’s partnership with Baystate Health has given them some first-hand experience with what it takes to be in the medical field.

Washington, who was born with a heart murmur, hopes to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

Washington, the class president, said the charter school’s connection with Baystate Medical Center gave her the opportunity to visit the hospital’s cardiac unit where she watched a heart-stent procedure.

“I feel very well-prepared for the pre-med courses I’ll be taking at Xavier,” Washington said. “I’ve already taken some pre-med classes here,” she said.

Washington’s parents encouraged her to put her name in the open lottery at the charter school. When her name was pulled, Washington, then a seventh grader, never looked back.

Baystate Academy was challenging with its longer days and heavy work load, she said. “In my family we don’t play when it comes to academics.”

With her parents’ encouragement, Washington said she has learned to discipline herself – keeping on top of her grades and college application deadlines.

Not all graduates are heading for health-care related majors in college.

Tyrese Rankin, a varsity basketball player at Baystate Academy, will attend American International College where he plans to major in business or criminal justice.

In addition to academics, Rankin said he plans to join AIC’s track team.

“I didn’t want to come here,” but my mother encouraged me, Rankin said. “Over time I got to know and like this school.”

As an expeditionary learning institution, our students are challenged to think critically and take an active role in the classroom,” Sneed said. “We’ are very proud of our first graduating class.”

Sneed said the school’s charter was just renewed.

The school, located in the former Westvaco building at 2001 Roosevelt Avenue, has 500 students whose ethnicity mirrors the demographics of the student population in Springfield: 68 percent Hispanic, 25 percent Black, 5 percent white and 1 percent Asian; 20 percent are students with disabilities, 14 percent are English language learners and 68 percent are economically disadvantaged.

The school grew out of the Baystate Health Springfield Education Partnership which employs Baystate Health resources and its diverse staff to offer educational programs designed to provide students better access to health careers.

The school also partners with Expeditionary Learning, a national project-based learning model that unlocks students’ potential and supports them to achieve more than they thought was possible, according to a school press release.

The first graduation class will receive diplomas during commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, at Esther B. Griswold Theater at AIC.

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