High school seniors across the country are dealing with missed proms, senior events, and graduation, but Boston Arts Academy (BAA) is doing something special for the class of 2020 to make the end of their socially distanced senior ear a little brighter.
As the only public arts high school in Massachusetts, BAA typically gives its graduating seniors a chance to perform in senior recitals and show off their talents at graduation, which just won’t be the same this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s why the Boston Arts Academy Foundation launched a fundraising campaign to support the Class of 2020, called “103 Reasons to Give,” in honor of BAA’s 103 graduating seniors.
The campaign goal is to raise $200,000 by June 12, and launched May 2 with a virtual kick-off event. Additionally, BAA Foundation’s annual celebration, BAA Honors, has been postponed, delaying a goal of raising $1.5 million.
“I know that so many seniors are losing so many rites of passage,” Denella Clark, president of the BAA Foundation, said. She said that BAA has some of the most “creative” and “collaborative” students, and because of the pandemic, people are unable to come and see all of their hard work come to fruition.
“BAA has some of the most vulnerable students,” Clark said. “So many of these kids come from low income backgrounds.” She added that 96 percent of the Class of 2020 has been accepted to college, and this campaign can help many of them pay for deposits.
So far, nearly $170,000 has been raised for the campaign.
“To think that these kids were just going to leave and not be celebrated, for me and our headmaster, Anne Clark, it was critically important that they know how proud we are of them and how much we love them and that we give to them through this campaign,” Denella Clark said.
The funds from the campaign will ensure that each student receives a yearbook, a care package valued at $500, and every student will be able to participate in a virtual graduation on June 8.
The remainder of the money will be given out as scholarships based on need.
“Our hope also is, in the fall, to have some sort of prom,” Clark said, which is currently scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving.
At the virtual graduation, Mayor Walsh and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley are slated to speak, as well as a keynote address from Academy Award winning costume designer Ruth Carter. Students will also still be able to do live performances as they would at an in-person ceremony.
Though students are upset, many are making the best of the situation and using technology to their advantage while socially distancing.
Nalany Guerrier, a graduating BAA senior and student body president, said that right now, she’s “feeling okay” about the whole situation. She said that while she and her classmates are upset that they are not “able to live out the senior experiences” that are typical for graduating seniors, “there’s not much that can be done during a pandemic.”
Guerrier, who studied film at BAA, has created a media project that she was excited to share, but now may have to do so online, which she said is “totally fine.”
She said she and her friends have been working on their projects from home, and have had more time throughout the day to get their schoolwork done.
Guerrier expressed her gratitude for the campaign, calling it “really cool.” She added, “I don’t know how many high schools will have fundraisers just for the senior class. It really encourages seniors.”
She said she feels supported by the administration at BAA, and appreciates the fact that the school has found ways to support the Class of 2020. She said she also feels as though “they know how much this year means to us.”
She added,” my school did the best they could deciding where the money would go and they have our best interests in mind.”
Guerrier also said the time at home has allowed BAA students to “be able to create new things as artists,” such as creating new songs and sharing them on social media for others to enjoy.
She said that personally, she has taken raw audio and made short stories out of it, so she can practice doing what she loves even while stuck inside.
She will be attending Emerson College in the fall, where she will be studying Media Arts Production. “I cannot wait to go,” she said, adding that she’s excited for the “ability for us to be hands-on at Emerson,” as that’s something she loved about BAA.
But for right now, BAA seniors are focused on finishing up their work in the final stretch of the online school year.
“We are going to get through it,” Guerrier said. “We’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
To make a donation to “103 Reasons to Give,” visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/hg2/, or donate by texting 103REASONS to 76278. “Every penny will help us get to our goal,” Clark said.