Alumni Spotlight: SBCCS I Class of 2016

In 2013, South Bronx Classical Charter School I (SBCCS I) welcomed its first 6th grade class. Three years later, this group  became our first graduating class from our middle school program. This summer, we are celebrating our former scholars and shining the spotlight on a few alumni who have just recently graduated and are paving the path for their future.

Nour Elshikh

After graduating from SBCCS I in 2016, Nour Elshikh attended Beacon High School, located near Times Square in NYC. While there was a bit of culture shock transitioning from a small charter school in the Bronx to a much larger school in the heart of the city, Nour felt academically prepared to excel at Beacon. Most notably, he had been exposed to texts in middle school that were introduced in his junior year syllabus. He credits Classical with providing him with rich academic experience and critical thinking skills that helped him to succeed in high school, and college in the years to follow.

Nour also credits the Character Education program at Classical and his former teachers for shaping his character, teaching him responsibility, guiding him on how to show and gain respect, and instilling in him the confidence to communicate effectively.

Nour studied Television and Radio at Ithaca with the hopes of someday spearheading a career in film, television, or music video production. In college, he has been involved in both on- and off- campus activities, including the Island Fusion dance team. He served as the Public Relations chair for Brothers for Brothers, a mentor program for young African American students on  campus. Beyond graduation, Nour is hoping to extend his studies in Los Angeles, hopefully with an opportunity for an internship in the entertainment field. If all goes well, this will provide a change of scenery and a window into the industry he has been studying for the past four years.

If you could offer any advice to current middle school students…

Nour provides one word: patience. Patience helps you get through stages of your life. Nour advises younger students to refrain from rushing things. Don’t rush growing up, and don’t carelessly rush your time in school, as each opportunity as a student is an opportunity to learn. Once you graduate and start preparing for college or for work, it becomes harder to make mistakes. He advises younger students to enjoy their time in school and to enjoy their time learning.

Mary Vaquero

Mary Vaquero also graduated SBCCS I in 2016 and attended Fordham High School for the Arts. Mary reflects on feeling socially and academically prepared transitioning into high school, even given the leap into a less structured and more independent setting. Because the pillar of responsibility was prioritized, particularly in Classical’s middle school program, Mary was able to navigate her high school schedule and deadlines independently. She was used to keeping up with materials management and her classwork and homework deadlines, so being ‘on top’ of her assignments in high school came easily.

In addition to high expectations set around responsibility, both from her Classical teachers and her family, there was also the rigor of her education that ensured she was well equipped, if not over-prepared, for high school. Her English Language Arts studies, including Textual Analysis, a deep dive into critical reading strategies, and her exposure to rigorous texts, prepared for the work outlined in her high school syllabus. Senior year, she was assigned Catcher in the Rye, a text she had studied closely in the 8th grade. She, now more than ever, appreciates the level of rigor she experienced as a student at SBCCS, as this has  enabled her to excel in high school and beyond.

Mary went on to study Marketing at Baruch College but, after the pandemic, shifted her majors to Sociology and Political Science. She graduated this May magna cum laude. In her junior year, she entered an internship working with a STEM and Robotics team for elementary and middle school students. She excelled in this position and built relationships. Soon thereafter, the program director offered her a secure position as a leader in the after-school club. She loosely followed a curriculum but, in her two years in this role, has developed and elaborated on content and delivery to make activities more engaging and accessible to her students.

Upon graduating from Baruch, Mary decided to take a gap year to determine the next steps on her path. She plans to pursue a career in education or social work. In her current role, she is actively making connections with social workers and educators in the Bronx to help figure out the best fit for her in the long run.

If you could offer any advice to current middle school students…

Stay in tune with what interests you or what you care about most. As you continue through life, you’ll find yourself, and you might end up in a different place than you first anticipated. Ultimately, you can set a path toward what you are passionate about and connect with others to help guide you there.

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