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Blog Aug 1, 2019

Partners from the Start: Young Voices Academy Celebrates First-Ever Graduating Class

Five years ago, Young Voices Academy of the Bronx opened its doors and welcomed its first students. As they stepped into new territory starting a school of their own, one thing was certain for the school’s founders, Nadia Cruz-Perez and Youche Chia: Turnaround for Children had to be part of their story.

“I couldn’t see my school starting without it,” said then-first-time Principal Cruz-Perez. “It was non-negotiable,” added Chia, the school’s guidance counselor. After seeing how Turnaround had helped students and teachers at their previous school, Archer Elementary, they decided that they wanted the same support for Young Voices.

Thus, a rich partnership began. For four years, Turnaround worked hand in hand with the school’s leaders, teachers and community-based mental health partners to build a safe and supportive environment for learning for every student.

This summer, Young Voices graduated its first fifth-grade classes. Turnaround Partnership Director, Ronni Gambardella, who had supported Young Voices from the start, had the honor of attending the graduation ceremony. “Do you believe this day is happening?” Principal Cruz-Perez remarked to Gambardella. It was a very emotional day for the school’s founders and there were many happy tears shed during the graduation speeches.

The theme of the graduation ceremony was “A Journey.” During her speech, Principal Cruz-Perez recounted her dream of creating a school where every child had a voice and how far the students had come. She explained that she wanted the day to reflect the extraordinary journey she and the students had been on, and the students’ journey to their next chapter in life – middle school. Imagery of airplanes, connecting flights and layovers decorated the school’s hallway and auditorium.

All aboard! This sign directed students to their various “gates” including those headed to middle school.


Personalized silhouettes of each graduating student in action lined the walls of the auditorium.


Proud parents looked on as their graduates walked to the stage to collect their diplomas. They watched a highlight video, which included a joyful pep rally during their third-grade year designed to emphasize a growth mindset for their first round of state testing. District 11 Community Superintendent, Meisha Ross Porter, also gave the students a shout out for earning the third highest reading scores in District 11 – one of the largest districts in New York City, with over 50 schools!

And there you have it: the graduating class of 2019! We can’t wait to see how they take the world by storm.

Watch a video about Turnaround for Children’s partnership with Young Voices Academy of the Bronx.