Bay Ridge Prep teachers, faculty surprise graduation students at their homes
The senior class of Bay Ridge Prep, 7420 Fourth Ave., had missed their teachers and will miss their traditional graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The faculty wanted to make up for it with “Operation: Tiger Surprise.”
On Wednesday, May 27, 20 faculty and staff members surprised students by making visits outside their homes with gifts such as caps and gowns, treats and some in-person congratulations. Seniors are scheduled to graduate on Tuesday, June 9.
Students were thrilled with the surprise.
“Before quarantine, the teachers at our school were obviously big parts of our lives and meant a lot to us because of the journey we had taken through high school,” said student Moses Millman. “It is a time of personal growth and having people there to guide you is very important. Getting to see them again meant a lot to me because it solidified the fact that even though we are moving on to a different part of our lives we still have a support system at a school that meant so much to us.”
Millman added that he missed his teachers.
“When I first saw the teachers surprising me, I thought that this whole experience cannot be real since they were a big part of our lives, and when school closed the only teachers we saw were those in our zoom classes,” he said. “Getting to see all of them again was a big surprise but was definitely needed in times like these.”
With the permission of the students’ parents, for six hours the teachers visited their homes while holding signs.
Karina Guerrero discussed how much the Bay Ridge school means to her.
“Being that I transferred to Bay Ridge Prep for my senior year upon the closure of my previous high school, I didn’t expect to become so close to the faculty in the way that I did,” she said. “This made their surprise visit all the more special to me, getting to see the people that took me in, welcomed me, and loved me for all that I was and could be after what feels like an eternity apart. They’ve become my second family and that made their visit beyond meaningful to me during this time. In a way, it reminded me that the people in my life still exist and that once this is all over I will still have my second family awaiting me at Bay Ridge Prep.”
She added that she was thrilled to see her teachers
“My very first thought as I saw everyone outside of my house was ‘I love these people so much.’ I was filled with such admiration and appreciation for all those that came out to see me,” Guerrero said. “It made me feel as though I wasn’t forgotten. It feels like during these times it’s easy to be lost as an individual in the words ‘Class of 2020.’ The words ‘Class of 2020’ no longer feel as though they encompass the groups of students each within their own schools but as if all the classes of 2020 worldwide are now unified through this pandemic, which is both a scary and beautiful thing.”
“The fact that many of Bay Ridge Prep’s teachers took the time out of their teaching day to travel to and visit over sixty students at their homes, while risking their health to do so, speaks volumes as to the quality and character of the teachers at our school as well as how strong the bonds formed between students and teachers are,” added student Noah Weiss. “I was shocked. When my parents told me to go downstairs I anticipated a delivery. The last thing I expected was for so many of my teachers to greet me at my building. Once I was able to process what was happening, I realized how grateful I was to be surrounded by so many empathetic and special teachers. I am going to miss my time at Bay Ridge Prep.”
Teachers were equally excited.
“We felt it was really important to close out the year on a high note,” said Rebecca Rice-Chiusano. “This crisis has robbed our kids of so many important rites of passage, from prom to graduation, and so many other little moments in between. We didn’t want their only memories of senior year to be all the things they lost.”
Rice-Chiusano was thrilled to see the looks on her students’ faces.
“It was incredible to be able to recognize the kids on an individual basis,” she added. “Seeing their faces when they opened their front doors and realized it was all for them made all the difficult moments bearable. As teachers, we mourned all of this with them, so to be able to say goodbye in person, even if from a distance, was so special.”
Teacher Gillian Fries added that it was the “one of the best things I’ve done in my teaching career.”
“Our school is all about community,” she said, “and we wanted to find a way to honor all the work these students have done and everything they’ve achieved over their four years. They deserved to be celebrated for everything they’ve accomplished.”
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