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A 5,500-Plus Mile Odyssey

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A Saugus couple emigrated from Cameroon more than 17 years ago, seeking higher education for their daughter

  It’s more than 5,500 miles as the crow flies from Saugus to Cameroon, a country in west-central Africa. But that’s how far Jean-Martin and Linda Kembo were willing to immigrate to realize hopes that their daughter, Crystal Fosung Kembo – who was 10 months old when they left Cameroon – would one day go to college.

  The Kembos first settled in Malden. And then in 2004, when Crystal was four, they decided they wanted to buy a home. They found an old-style 1904 vintage home on Newhall Street in Saugus in 2007, bought the house and moved here to pave the way for Crystal’s pursuit of public education in Saugus.

  But that part of Crystal’s journey officially ended last Friday night (June 3) when she walked off the graduation stage at Christie Serino Jr. Memorial Stadium, as a Graduate Honors Student, carrying a diploma while wearing a mortarboard with facsimile of the Cameroon flag attached to the top. The next leg of her education odyssey begins in the fall, when Crystal goes to Brown University to study International and Public Affairs. She is one of Saugus’s 63 first generation college students of 132 who are college-bound this year. (See inside for this week’s “The Advocate Asks” interview with Crystal.)

  “This means they are the first in their immediate family to attend college,” Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Erin McMahon said in her speech at Saugus High’s 151st Commencement Exercises – the first one hosted at the new Christie Serino Jr. Memorial Stadium.” This is a tremendous accomplishment for those students and also their families who supported them to pursue higher education. Thank you, families,” she said.

  Saugus Middle High School Principal Brendon Sullivan hailed the class of 172 graduates as showing a great deal of character in the way they responded as a group to the COVID-19 pandemic, which encompassed large blocks of time over the course of the last three years. “As a class, you have endured a great deal through your time at Saugus High School. But you have persevered and triumphed through it all,” Sullivan told the graduates. “No class that we could design could ever match the flexible thinking, the creative problem-solving and collaborative planning the COVID Era required of you on a near-daily basis.

  “At a time when it is all too easy to give up and say ‘We just can’t do it,’ you persevered and you did what you set your mind to. That is the lesson I hope you take with you from Saugus High School … the importance of persevering in life – to keep going when it’s easier to quit.

  Sullivan quoted actor Sylvester Stallone from the “Rocky” movies as an example that reflects the Saugus High Class of 2022: “Going on one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference.”

  “I urge you to continue to exhibit the perseverance and strength of character that you have shown these last four years. Continue to be the people that keep going when others quit – because that’s what makes the difference,” Sullivan said.

  Superintendent McMahon echoed some of Sullivan’s comments. “The Class of 2022 has faced challenges like no other with three of their four High School years in the COVID era. Yet, they have grown, persevered and are moving on to much success,” the superintendent said.

Commencement highlights

  Here are some of the colorful highlights from last Friday night’s commencement exercises:

  • Nathan Ing, a senior honors student, turned 18 last Friday. At the request of Class Valedictorian Jason Patrick Ciampa, fellow graduates sang a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for him. Nathan is headed to Bentley University in the fall to study International Business.
  • This year’s class includes three sets of twins. Matthew Michael MacEachern and Mark Thomas MacEachern: Matthew plans to serve in the U.S. Air Force and Mark plans to attend Bridgewater State University this fall. Taya and Talia Ekasala: Taya is headed to Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics of Woburn. Talia plans to study in a real estate prep program. Diane Mustafa Jubeili and her twin sister Rayaan Mustafa Jubeili are Honors Graduates. Both are headed to Salem State University. Diane plans to study Computer Science and Rayaan plans to study Nursing.
  • It was a special night for former Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem. He showed up to help out on some of the logistics in setting up the ceremonies. But he got to see his daughter Mikayla Chelsea Hashem sing the National Anthem and receive her High School diploma. Hashem’s wife, Gail, a biology teacher, joined them. Mikayla Chelsea is a National Honor Society member in this year’s class and will head to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the fall to study Theater.
  • Saugus Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini got to join his son Anthony Jeffrey Cicolini. Anthony is the class treasurer and was one of three Marshals in this year’s class. He is headed to Bentley College in the fall to study Accounting. He is an Advanced Academy Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society
  • Two Town Meeting Members have children graduating with this year’s class. Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Robert J. Camuso, Sr., got to celebrate with his son, Jake Ryan Camuso, an Honors Graduate. Jake plans to attend Bentley University to study Business Finance. Precinct 5 Town Meeting Member Ronald Wallace got to join his daughter, Abigail O’Shea Wallace. Abigail plans to attend Saint Anselm College to study Psychology.

  · It was a memorable night for veteran Saugus educator Tracey Ragucci, the outgoing principal of the Belmonte STEAM Academy. She and her husband, Scott, got to enjoy the graduation of their son Ryan Matthew, a Senior Honors Graduate and Advanced Academy Scholar. He plans to attend the University of Lowell in the fall to study Computer Science. Tracey Ragucci plans to return as a classroom teacher next fall.

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