I have waited since 1998 for this moment to happen… An alum who would give back to Boston Arts Academy in ways that embody being an artist-scholar-citizen. Zakiyyah Sutton (2008) graduated being all three, (she was the senior class president, an accomplished singer, and an honor roll student-and our first ever to get into Wellesley).

But who knew, that as a sophomore at Wellesley College, she’d walk into the office of the Assistant Professor of Education and ask if he would host a book talk on campus? That professor, Ken Hawes, and what must have been the whole education department, plus at least 40 some students, all turned up to learn about BAA. We sold some books, yes, but really how many undergrads have extra money for books? More importantly, Zakiyyah made sure that the place was packed with students interested in education and BAA.

The questions were great: How do you deal with discipline? What do you do about arts programming that is being cut everywhere? Do small schools make a difference? How do you really help students own the “O” in RICO? What do you think it is the essential ingredient that makes the school work?

Zakiyyah and I both answered the same: The teachers. Their dedication and their laser focus on student achievement. And what about parent involvement? I found myself talking about Zakiyyah’s dad, who like many of our parent/caregivers become parents for students other than their own, and how much we appreciate and need that support! I talked about race and class and access and was approached by many of the students thanking me for coming and sharing stories with them.

It was a wonderful event made all the more wonderful because it revolved around Zakiyyah. So thank you, Zakiyyah. You made us all so very, very proud!

Zakiyyah graduating from BAA at Boston’s Symphony Hall