'Legendary' University High School Students Look To The Future
Hartford Courant. Ruth Bruno. June 18, 2018.

When class president Mathieu Letendre entered University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford four years ago, one of his first tasks was to vote along with his fellow students on a name for the class body.

It came down to a choice between “millennial” and “legendary.” In the end, “legendary” won out.

“Honestly, I hated the name at first,” Letendre told the crowd gathered for the school’s graduation ceremony at University of Hartford’s Lincoln Theater Monday afternoon.

But Letendre admitted that, eventually, it won his approval as he progressed in the school “only because our class truly has been legendary.” He then named the achievements by individual students as well as joint efforts by the class to build housing for impoverished citizens in the Dominican Republic and to provide water during charity runs in Hartford.

“It was those acts of kindness and compassion that made our class legendary,” he said.

In addition to serving as class president, Letendre was awarded the President’s Early College Award Monday night for earning the highest grade-point average while completing college courses at the University of Hartford. Letendre, a Berlin resident, completed 34 college credits with a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis in fall.

Letendre wasn’t alone in his achievements. Five students graduated Monday with a grade-point average above 3.90, said Alan Hadad, the the dean of the University of Hartford’s magnet schools.

“I feel so badly that I only have one president’s award to give,” Hadad said.

Of the 96 students in the Class of 2018, 22 finished with high honors.

Samuel Shagan was among these students. He was awarded the Dean’s Early College Award Monday and was recognized for completing the most college credits of his class. He finished his senior year with two years worth of college credits before graduating from high school. The Cromwell resident has been accepted and plans to attend Cornell University.

Principal Sean Tomany said he has tried to impart a lesson to every class he’s had: Take every opportunity.

“These students have done just that,” Tomany said. “They have taken advantage of every opportunity offered to them.”

Tomany said the graduates are planning to attend an array of schools, including University of Connecticut, Cornell University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“I say farewell to the Class of 2018 and welcome the Class of 2021 because i expect you to come back,” Tomany said. “I expect you to come back to my office and tell me about all the great things you’re doing.”

If the students decide to visit later, they will return to a school that has expanded consistently since it was started in 2003.

The University High School was started with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It received state and federal funding to house its buildings on the University of Hartford’s campus when the institute provided land to the magnet school in 2009. A collaboration with the university allows qualified students in the magnet school to take classes free of charge if there are seats available in the classes, the university said.

Beginning in their sophomore years, students who are on the honor roll, have earned high SAT or PSAT scores and have received a recommendation from their guidance counselor are eligible to take college classes at the neighboring university.

Class speaker Yasantaia Napoleon looked back at the changes the school and her classmates have undergone.

“It seems like just yesterday that we were freshmen,” Napoleon said. She encouraged her classmates to embrace new experiences, as they did four years ago.

“You don’t have to be great to start; you just have to start to be great,” Napoleon said.

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