Highlights galore on graduation day at Anna House
by Jim Reisler
So, what was the highlight of the 2023 Anna House graduation ceremony held Tuesday by the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA) on the grounds of Belmont Park?
Perhaps it was the moment when the six graduates, dressed in matching blue gowns and mortar boards, marched to the patio of Anna House to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance.
Or it may have been just after the ceremony when the parents of the students hugged their children and celebrated their achievement. “We’re so proud of him,” said Nayeli of her graduating son, Miguel. “This experience has been so good for Miguel. He loves school.”
In short, the uplifting 25-minute ceremony was chock full of highlights. “It’s our favorite day of the year at Anna House!” said BCCA Executive Director Joanne K. Adams.
“This is why we’re so committed to our mission to provide our children with a love of learning and a great start in life.”
Adams is celebrating her 10th year at the BCCA. She said she is grateful for all that BCCA has accomplished to date and is very proud of the school-age program, which was launched eight years ago. “Following our students on their educational path is a commitment we make to all our graduates,” she added.
The ceremony, held under a sun-drenched sky, marked the completion of the year-round pre-K program, where the children were taught English, math, reading, gardening, art, nutrition, and other topics in a STEAM-based curriculum, run in partnership with Bright Horizons.
The students are now prepared to enter kindergarten in September in local public schools, with many set to continue in the BCCA’s school-age program where they’ll receive tutoring and enrichment activities outside their public school classrooms.
“This is always a very fulfilling and overwhelming day in the same breath,” said BCCA President Libby Imperio. “Seeing the future that these children are about to embark on makes me feel like the parent of all of them. That’s why I always say that the happiest place in racing, if not the winner’s circle, is Anna House. It truly is; if you’re ever in a bad mood, stop by and see the kids.”
At this year’s graduation, students sang songs and told the audience what they want to be when they grow up. Miguel and another boy said they aspire to be police officers. The other two boys aimed to be a plumber and a firefighter. Of the two girls in the graduating class, one hoped to be a teacher and the other, a singer. During the event, the children received their diplomas from Imperio and BCCA Chairman and Founder Michael Dubb.
One of the highlights this year was the announcement of the BCCA’s college scholarship to Anna House 2010 alumna, Xochilt, who graduates this month from Elmont Memorial High School, and is set to study Civil Engineering and Architecture at Northeastern University. Xochilt received a $5,000 college scholarship from the BCCA for her studies.
BCCA was established in 1998, with Anna House as the centerpiece of its commitment to the New York backstretch community, opening its doors in 2002. Dubb, a Long Island-based builder and a New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) Board member, constructed Anna House and its sister facility, Faith’s House at Saratoga Race Course, which opened in 2021. Imperio joined the Board of Directors 15 years ago and has served as President for nine years, working tirelessly to advocate for those who need support.
“As a builder, I’ve always said that you can’t build a good home without a foundation,” said Dubb. “These children get such a good education and a foundation and leave here with such confidence. We’ve seen it time and time again that these kids excel when they get to school. I know how important it is to get these kids out of their shells in order to help them succeed.”
Taking in the ceremony, NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said the graduating students, “really do symbolize the American dream.”
“Seeing these kids and what they’re achieving is really special, and why NYRA is steadfast in its support of the Belmont Child Care Association,” O’Rourke added. “The backstretch community is the heart and soul of our tracks in New York. Ensuring the success of the children at Anna House is one of the most important things we can do in our industry.”
“We’re so happy Anna House is here,” said Nayeli, who works in trainer David Donk’s barn. “It’s why Miguel can’t wait to go to kindergarten!”