An Excel-Lent Journey Chelsea’s Vanesa Perea Will Attend Harvard University

Vanesa Perea, who enrolled at Excel Academy East Boston in the fifth grade and graduated from Excel Academy High School in June, will begin her studies at Harvard University as a member of the incoming Class of 2023.

Admission to the world’s most prestigious college culminated an eight-year journey of educational enrichment and academic achievement for high honor roll student Vanesa Perea at the Excel charter schools, whose mission is to prepare students to succeed in high school and college, apply their learning to solve relevant problems, and engage productively in their communities.

Excel Academy High School graduate Vanesa Perea of Chelsea will be attending Ivy League school Harvard University in Cambridge

Perea, whose parents, Jose Perea and Luz Piedrahita, are originally from Colombia, was a shining example as a member of the first graduating class at Excel, which opened its new high school on Bremen Street in East Boston at the beginning of her sophomore year.

She attended the Kelly School in Chelsea through grade four before entering Excel in the fifth grade.

Many accomplishments and school activities at Excel

Excel does not select a class valedictorian or have an academic ranking system, but Vanesa’s achievements in all aspects of school life speak for themselves.

She had an outstanding grade point average and received a number of academic honors including the school’s Mathematics Award and National Honor Society Award. She was treasurer of the National Honor Society.

This year Vanesa took Advanced Placement courses in Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, and Literature and Composition. Other AP courses were taken in Language and Composition, U.S. History, Biology, Spanish, and World History in her two prior academic years.

“I like STEM,” said Vanessa, explaining the concentration of courses in science and mathematics.

Vanesa also took her talents to the athletic fields where she competed in varsity soccer and served as team captain for two seasons. She was also a member of the Excel track team.

One of her most recognized accomplishments was founding the school newspaper, “The Howler,” and serving as editor of the publication. The school presented a graduation award named in honor of Vanesa and her classmate, Evelyn Rodriguez, the other co-founder of the newspaper. That award went to the newspaper’s founding duo.

She was the backstage director for the Music Club and served on the Student Council for two years.

Vanesa also volunteers as an English tutor for immigrants at a center in East Boston.

Receiving the acceptance letter from Harvard

Vanesa applied to Harvard in its Restrictive Early Action program. She received notification of her acceptance in December.

“December 13,” said Vanesa, recalling the day she learned that the next stop in her career would be in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I was very excited. I called my mom and I said, ‘Mom, I did it!’

She had enjoyed the positive learning experiences at the Crimson Summer Academy and the summer classes at Harvard she took last summer in Introduction to Biomedical Ethics and Expository Writing.

She is considering a major in Biology, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard.

“I’m going to explore a little and see which field of study I really like so that I can end up doing something that I’m passionate about,” related Vanesa, who may pursue a pre-medical school path or a future career in consulting. She has received a full scholarship from Harvard.

Praise for her teachers and college counselor

Vanesa said she was grateful to the teachers at Excel, particularly her junior-year Mathematics teacher, Sarah Hafele.

“Ms. Hafele is a lot like me – I really love math and she shares that passion,” said Vanesa. “I like math tutoring so I asked her if I could tutor some of her math students. During my senior year we started a math tutoring, honors pre-calculus program which went really well. She’s a very kind person.”

Vanesa also credited Excel counselor Nicole Repp for her assistance and guidance in the college application process (Vanesa was also accepted in to the UMass/Amherst honors program).

“Ms. Repp began advising me in my junior year and working on essay preparation and she was very helpful,” said Vanesa.

This summer, Vanesa is teaching Mathematics at the Excel Academy summer program in Chelsea.

Support and encouragement from CSC member Kelly Garcia

One of Vanesa’s proud supporters at Excel is schoolteacher Kelly Garcia, a Latina member of the Chelsea School Committee (CSC).

“I heard Vanesa’s story and I wanted to let the people know – she’s from Chelsea and she makes us all proud,” said Garcia. “There are many obstacles against us, but she is one that is breaking all barriers and stereotypes and I want her to be celebrated and recognized in her beautiful city of Chelsea.”

Garcia said she hopes Vanesa’s success story as the daughter of immigrants “will inspire students to keep working hard and know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Gratitude to her parents

Vanesa’s father, Jose, is a driver for a senior center while her mother, Luz, is a teaching assistant at an early childhood learning center.

“My parents have set a great example for me with their hard work,” said Vanesa. “They are my motivation.”

Another positive role model is her older brother, Jhonatan, a Chelsea High School graduate who just received his degree in Biology from Boston University. He works at the Boston Medical Center.

“Jhonatan set a very good example,” lauded Vanesa. “I never knew the extent of how good a role model he was until I went through my own college process and realized how incredible a school Boston University is. He accomplished it first and I want to be like him.”

Looking back at her career in the Excel system, Vanessa said, “I’m very happy I attended Excel. It’s been a great experience. The people at Excel inspired me to pursue my goals.” Chelsea Soldiers’ Home awarded $100 million to replace

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Abeyta is School Committee Choice for Superintendent

In the end, it was a unanimous vote by the School Committee to enter into negotiations with Almudena Abeyta as the next superintendent of schools, although it took a handful of votes to reach that decision.

The Committee met Thursday, May 9 to consider three finalists to replace Mary Bourque, who is retiring this year after more than 30 years in the Chelsea schools.

While each of the three finalists for superintendent garnered some support from Committee members Thursday night, Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Somerville Public schools, had the majority of the support from the board throughout four votes.

While there was not unanimous support for Abeyta from the get-go, Committee members universally praised the high quality of all three finalists. In addition to Abeyta, the other two finalists were Anthony Parker, the Weston High School principal, and Ligia Noriega-Murphy, assistant superintendent of secondary schools in the Boston Public Schools.

“Chelsea is very lucky tonight to have three outstanding candidates,” said At-Large School Committee member Frank DePatto. “The city is in good hands with any of the candidates.”

DePatto noted that having three highly qualified candidates did make for a difficult decision for the Committee members, a sentiment echoed by District Five School Committee member Henry Wilson – who just joined the Committee a few weeks ago.

“I changed my mind and then I changed my mind again,” said Wilson. “Today, I did a lot of praying.”

District Seven School Committee member Kelly Garcia said Abeyta was the candidate who spoke most to her as an educator.

“She answered every question with calmness, urgency, confidence, and experience,” said Garcia.

In the first round of voting, it looked like Abeyta was in as the choice of the School Committee with a 5-3 vote. The Committee’s ninth member, Rosemarie Carlisle, could not attend the meeting because of a medical issue.

However, after some legal consultation, it was determined that the vote was taken after only one name was entered into nomination. Under procedure, the Committee should have entered all candidates being considered into nomination.

During that round of voting, Abeyta fell just short of a majority, garnering four votes, with Noriega-Murphy getting three and Parker grabbing one vote. A second round with the top-two vote getters ended with a 5-3 majority for Abeyta, enough to secure approval.

DePatto, who voted for Noriega-Murphy during the open nominations, made the motion to make the vote unanimous for Abeyta.

Even though he backed Noriega-Murphy, after the meeting, DePatto said he was happy with the outcome of the meeting.

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School Committee’s Garcia Fires Back After Hernandez Letter

About one month after former School Committeeman Julio Hernandez – the vice chair of the Committee – suddenly resigned, citing a lack of interest in the Committee from other members, one member is firing back to say the School Committee is committed.

Kelly Garcia.

In his letter last month, Hernandez cited financial reasons mostly for his resignation, but also indicated that many members of the School Committee didn’t show up to meetings and didn’t have the best interest of the kids at heart.

In a letter to the Record this week, member Kelly Garcia said she disagreed with that summation and defended her record.

“I persevered and fought against every obstacle that came my way, and I continue to serve on the committee and stand right by my students both in my classroom as a Special Education teacher, as an advocate for increased funding at the State House on Beacon Hill, and the School Committee member representing District 7,” she wrote. “I never gave up on the students of Chelsea because once again, and in Hernandez’s own words, ‘our students’ education is no JOKE.’

“I was appalled to read such negative commentary by a former elected official,” she continued. “A person who has chosen to break his commitment to the Chelsea School District and its students should not be now using social media to undermine those who are left to choose a replacement, while at the same time, having to choose a new Superintendent.”

The letter also indicated that she believed it was Hernandez that failed the students of Chelsea, urging him to move on with dignity.

“Hernandez is an aspiring professional, and I ask that he leave this position with dignity and respect for himself and for his former colleagues who continue to work hard attending the majority of the meetings, asking thought-provoking questions, and searching for the next superintendent,” she wrote.

Hernandez’s resignation came just before the resignation of School Committee Chair Rich Maronski, who also voiced frustrations with the fact that many members don’t attend meetings. He is continuing to serve out through the end of the superintendent search.

Hernandez resigned immediately after the letter.

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Garcia Selected as Political Surrogate for Senator Elizabeth Warren

Garcia Selected as Political Surrogate for Senator Elizabeth Warren

Chelsea City Councilor Judith Garcia announced that she has been selected as a political surrogate on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reelection campaign, chosen from a sprawling list of notable political figures in the state.

Councilor Judith Garcia.

Councilor Judith Garcia.

The 26-year-old, now in her second term, kicked off her efforts to reelect Sen. Warren at the Chelsea Public Library during this past Saturday’s caucus, where Garcia served as a spokesperson for the campaign.

“Senator Warren has remained committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our community, rebuilding economic security for our working families, and making a difference in our state,” Garcia said.

“During the last six years, Elizabeth has been a devoted leader who remains connected to our residents and the issues that affect us,” continued Garcia. “She pushed for the permanent extension of Earned Income and Child Tax Credits helping to keep 250,000 Massachusetts residents and more than 100,000 children out of poverty. Her values and morals are where they need to be.”

Councilor Garcia is a native of Chelsea, who grew up in a proud Spanish-speaking household. As the City Councilor of District 5, she is the first Honduran American woman to serve on the Chelsea City Council, as well as the youngest current member. Now, Judith dedicates her time to creating government that truly represents and works for its people.

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New Faces Prove Successful in Preliminary Election

A wave of new faces and non-incumbents shocked some political veterans and knocked District 5 Councillor Joe Perlatonda out of his seat during Tuesday’s Preliminary Election.

The hottest race in the city – that of the at-large race – featured eight candidates and headlined with political newcomer Damali Vidot topping the ticket with 606 votes in a low turnout of 11 percent of the 13,554 registered voters.

“I topped the ticket and I feel that clearly there is an anti-incumbent sentiment and people want change,” she said afterward. “Joe Perlatonda is out and he was an incumbent. I finished ahead of two incumbents. People showed it with the vote that they want change and I’m ready to answer that call. We ran a straight campaign and focused on the issues and our message. We never went negative even when others did. We’re not taking this for granted. It’s not over by any means. We’ll work just as hard up to the general election.”

Vidot’s entrance into politics is as surprising to her as it is to those who were shocked to see Tuesday’s results. Having been put-off by her tax bill, increasing crime in her Highland Street neighborhood and the parking program, she began going to City Council meetings and wasn’t happy with what she saw – often describing it as a “disconnect” between the people and City Hall.

“Several months ago, I would have never thought I’d be doing this,” she said.

The remainder of the field figured as follows:

  • Roy Avellaneda, 581
  • Councillor Calvin Brown, 507
  • Council President Leo Robinson, 487
  • Todd Taylor, 401
  • Deborah Washington, 248

Those knocked out of the race included James O’Regan with 237 votes and John Cadiz with 139 votes.

There were 26 write-in votes.

In the shocker of the night, sitting District 5 Councillor Joe Perlatonda was knocked out of the race, having been bested by newcomer Judith Garcia and challenger Henry Wilson.

Garcia topped District 5 voting with 74 votes and Henry Wilson came in second with 59 votes.

They will face each other in the general election in November.

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National Honor Society

National Honor Society

nhs

Chelsea High National Honor Society (NHS) officers lit the ceremonial candles last Wednesday evening, April 29, at Chelsea High School during the annual NHS induction ceremony.
Pictured here are Sara Arman, president; Marcone Dos Santos Correia, vice president; Cindy Quijada, treasurer; and Ashley Garcia Ochoa, secretary.

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