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Worcester Prep Class of ’21 overcomes barriers to excel

By Mallory Panuska

(June 3, 2021) When a graduation speaker is a highly accomplished doctor, it’s natural that his commencement speech comes with some medical analogies.

Photo by Mallory Panuska
Graduate Carson Cebula accepts his diploma from Charles Jenkins Sr., the president of the Board of Trustees, during Worcester Prep’s graduation last Friday.

That was the case last week when Dr. Christian Castaneda took the stage at the Worcester Preparatory class of 2021 graduation.

Fitting in the time of covid, the young New York Presbyterian Queens fellow and proud Worcester Prep alum likened the 43 members of the senior class decked out in elegant white dresses and sharp black tuxedos to bright-eyed medical interns.

Like the soon-to-be doctors, who rely on their hours of rotations to confidently know what to do in times of medical distress and uncertainty, the teenagers are preparing to rely on the education and training they have received at the Ocean City private school in their next chapters. And unlike many students who matriculated at Worcester Prep in the past, the members of the class of 2021 cleared some unique hurdles.

“Your class had to overcome barriers to education during one of the darkest times in the history of the United States,” Castaneda said during his speech, referring to the covid-19 pandemic that swooped in and shook up their path to graduation during their junior year.

“You’ve had to navigate applying to higher education amidst the pandemic, the likes of which our country has never seen,” he continued. “For this you should be commended. Because not only did you navigate these troubled waters, it seems like you’ve excelled in them.”

Diane Brown, the marketing and public relations associate for Worcester Prep, said via email that the students received more than $6.6 million in merit scholarship offers and will attend 36 different colleges and universities, which are in 19 states and D.C. Nineteen members of the class, or 44 percent, entered Worcester Prep in either pre-k or kindergarten.

The students also collected numerous awards for academics, service, arts and sports during their commencement ceremony last Friday.

Charles “Buddy” Jenkins, the president of the Board of Trustees, summarized some of the accomplishments while addressing the students, which he attributed to the school’s adept education system.

“About 70 percent, year over year, are deemed to be gifted and talented students,” he said. “You guys weren’t born that way were you? No, it’s a tribute to the school.”

Class President Caroline Anderson told her peers to look around the rows of chairs set up on the Worcester Prep lawn during the ceremony and remember the moment. While she recognized that high school may not be something everyone would want to revisit, she said she will treasure her time there and hopes her classmates feel the same.

And to give encouragement to face tough situations in the future, Anderson recited “Invictus” a poem that Nelson Mandela found inspiration and encouragement from the poem, and she hopes her classmates will as well.

“I want everyone here today to keep this poem in their heads as we enter the next chapter of our life,” she said. “In college there will be times when you feel stressed and alone, when all you want to do is give up, but remember this poem and remember everyone here today. This school has prepared you to deal with all the pressure in college and the lifelong friends you have made are only a phone call away.”

Friday’s graduation was the first official ceremony the school hosted since 2019. In 2020, officials were forced to get creative with a drive-thru graduation due to covid-19 social distancing restrictions. Graduates also celebrated with a car parade.

The 43 graduates will attend 36 different colleges and universities in 19 states this fall. Below are highlights from the Class of 2021:

Photo by Mallory Panuska
Class President Caroline Anderson walks back to her seat after giving her farewell address at Worcester Prep’s graduation last Friday.

  • 43 seniors: 22 girls and 21 boys.
  • 19 students (44 percent of the class) entered in either pre-K or kindergarten, making them Worcester Prep “lifers.”
  • 106 colleges and universities offered admission to one or more Worcester Prep senior.
  • 36 colleges and universities enrolled one or more Worcester Prep seniors, representing 23 private and 13 public colleges and universities.
  • 19 states and the D.C.are represented in the schools the students will attend.
  • More than $6.6 million in merit scholarships were awarded to members of the gradating class.