METCO graduates celebrate in virtual ceremony

Hyde Park resident and student council president at Wayland High School, Shawn Bernier, delivered a video address to his fellow METCO graduates.

On June 27, students participated in a virtual graduation ceremony for the METCO program, which since 1966 has brought and supported students of color from Boston’s neighborhoods to suburban, mostly white schools. These 264 students were lauded by special guests, including Patriot Devin McCourty, Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, and keynote speaker, Boston City Council President Kim Janey.

A Roxbury native and METCO graduate herself from the class of 1983, Janey congratulated the class and shared her experiences in the 1970s.

“Our buses were stoned, we were called racial slurs,” Janey said. “It was a very traumatic experience. Oftentimes we needed police escorts. But my parents stepped in again--they wanted better for me--so they enrolled me in METCO. I faced my own challenges and I was able to overcome. None, I’m sure, were as great as the ones you have faced. You guys have persevered...you are not leaders tomorrow, you are leaders right now. You have demonstrated that.”

“METCO students are not only making a daily journey from city to suburbs, but they are also on a journey to change people’s minds and hearts about race, equity and inclusion,” said METCO President & CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas. “

Gov. Baker recalled how as a kid, his family would host METCO students at his house. Today, his own children are affected by the program in a similar way.

“My own kids in Swampscott have developed deep and meaningful relationships with the kids who have come through the METCO program,” said Baker. “it’s a truly special program, it provides significant opportunity and a chance for learning in so many different ways.”

Shawn Bernier, a Haitian-American senior from Hyde Park who became student council president at Wayland High School, addressed his fellow graduates in a recorded video clip. Bernier, the first transgender student in METCO program history, described how his journey of “unveiling” his true self mirrored the obligation his fellow classmates have to seek justice and truth and be true to themselves:

“I’m sharing all of this because it is important to remember where we once began,” Bernier said. “Imagine if we stopped at the moment when we faced the most adversity? Imagine if we never took the steps to fight for our liberty? Imagine if we never took the steps to organize protests of abominable justice, or even strive for historic greatness? We have been forced to step into a place of courage and resilience, a place that none of us could have ever perceived or imagined four years ago.”