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New Haven college signing day puts an emphasis on academics

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NEW HAVEN - A college signing day is a tradition typically reserved for top athletes. But at one New Haven high school, senior signing day is a showcase of kids that score big in the classroom, despite some rough obstacles.

“My father came here 28 years ago and struggled to make ends meet for my sister and I,” said N'Kenya Darmand, an Amistad High School senior who announced she will be attending UConn.

Many in this year’s senior class have traveled similar paths, including a young man who moved to New Haven from Ecuador.

“When I first moved into fifth grade I was reading at a second grade level,” said Sebastian Quinonez, who came to New Haven when he was 5 years old, three years after his mother came to America on a work visa. Adopting her work ethic carried him far.

“I got into Amherst, to Georgetown and Occidental, Boston College, George Washington University,” said Quinonez.

But on this senior signing day he announced he’s staying home to attend Yale University. The decision came after a summer camp he attended at the Ivy League school.

“I saw it in a new light and I think that it was very interesting how I didn't feel like I was at home, yet I was at home,” said Quinones. “It was that duality that attracted me to Yale.”

And he says he's proud to carry the torch for immigrants everywhere.

“I am an anthem, a voice for the many other people that can't have a voice,” he added.

A special part of senior signing day for the graduate is having their families there for the announcement.

“As we know, many of our students that are here in New Haven are first generational,” said Nilvio Perez, associate director of recruitment & admissions for Central Connecticut State University. “These students are not the only ones going to college. The whole family is going to college.”

“I remember three years ago, when I seen my first senior signing day, I couldn't wait for the moment of when I would be up on the stage announcing the college of my dreams,” said Cody Henry, a senior who will attend Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This class submitted nearly 750 college applications to 159 schools.

Amistad High School, ranked the third-best high school in Connecticut by U.S. News and World Report, boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

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