Bonnie Hastings' farewell address to Crispus Attucks Youth Build Charter School graduates Friday night touched on a bevy of subjects - armed conflict, kindness to animals, terrorism, manners and violence, among other topics - but the retiring teacher couldn't help herself.
"I love you guys, and I'm going to miss you," Hastings told the class of 2012. But before she dismissed them for the last time, she said she had to give one more lesson.
Show kindness to people who show you nastiness, she told them. As Hastings' mother told her, "It is their unhappiness that causes their nastiness." She advised graduates to remember to say "please" and "thank you" and, as the adage goes, to "practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."
Youth Build staff, teachers and board members took that message to heart Friday, graduating 31 students in a two-hour ceremony that showered the departing young people in recognition and awards.
And the graduates showed the same consideration to family and friends, hand-delivering written messages to their supporters Friday night.
Valedictorian Elisa Aponte encouraged her class to keep their eyes on the prize.
"We're dream chasers," she said. With enough focus, dreams become goals, and with enough commitment, "we will make (those goals) our future," she said.
Featured speaker Jose Colon, board president of the Centro Hispano José Hernández in York City, told graduates about his own path to success, from kindergarten in Puerto Rico to English classes at a Philadelphia community college to his work today with the York Housing Authority.
And though he still speaks with what he calls a "thick" dialect, he has no reservations about reminding people how far he's come.
"Don't let my accent fool you," Colon joked lightly. "I'm really smart."
He also asked students to persevere and to keep learning.
"No matter what life throws at you, don't give up," he said. "Please don't stop. Don't stop today."
Crispus Attucks Youth Build Charter School Class of 2012
Number of graduates: 31
Graduation ceremony held June 1 in the Crispus Attucks gymnasium
Valedictorian: Elisa Aponte
Salutatorians: Jordyn Winder, Axel Montalvo
Other speakers: Jose Colon, board president of the Centro Hispano José Hernández; Bonnie Hastings, retiring Youth Build teacher; Thomas Englerth, board president of Crispus Attucks Youth Build Charter School