An estimated 600 seniors will graduate from North Bergen High School on June 20. Principal Pat Tennaro said that the class is academically “exceptional,” as the school had a high passing rate of 92 percent for the statewide HSPA test when they were juniors.
“This class was instrumental in being nominated as a Blue Ribbon high school,” Tennaro said, referring to a national award given to high schools based on test scores. Tennaro said after being nominated, only nine schools in the country will get the award. North Bergen does not yet know if it will win.
Grads and their memories
Valedictorian Melanie De Leon, Salutatorian Shivam Patel, Key Club president Albery Paula; class president Mabel Oviedo, class Vice President Zeinab Said, Student Council President Kalp Joshi, and Key Club editor Christina Fontaine mentioned their most memorable experiences in the school.
“[I remember] the environmental club, raising money to buy a tree, and like a month ago we planted a tree,” said Melanie De Leon, the valedictorian.
“Working on the yearbook was exciting. It was fun,” said Zeinab, the class vice-president.
“I learned to be a leader...and to have lots of responsibilities,” said Albery. “As a Key Club president you have lots of responsibilities. You have to direct, you have to tell them what to do, organize everything, and I think that’s really helpful.”
“I learned that intelligence really isn’t just based on grades,” said Mabel. “There’s more to learn outside of a classroom than there is inside of a classroom, that it shouldn’t stop there.”
“I think I learned more from extra curricular activities,” said Kalp. “Through clubs, you learn responsibility.”
“When it comes to the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re book smart; it matters if you know how to make your way around,” said Christina. “It’s not all about fun, but it’s not all about work either. You have to find a balance.”
Compassion for others
Tennaro said that the high number of immigrants in the school is reflected in the students’ work ethic, and he referred to the parents’ attempts to give their students a better life.
“We’re all a product of immigrant families,” Tennaro said, “and understand the sacrifices that were made to be able to give the [students] greater opportunities.”
Tennaro said that the students at NBHS display great compassion for others, including fellow disabled students.
“Students have learned that they come from a community and high school that wants them to do very, very well,” said Tennaro.
Melanie will attend New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to study chemical engineering. She wants to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Shivam will attend Rutgers business for economics and math. Paula will attend Seton Hall University in the fall to become a doctor and wants to pursue a medical school at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
Mabel will go off to the University of Pennsylvania, possibly for cultural anthropology and neuroscience. Zeinab is going to Rutgers Newark and will pursue either chemistry and anthropology, or chemistry and political science, with an English minor. She’s considering leaving the science for medical school.
Kalp will attend Rutgers New Brunswick for biology and hopes to go to a four-year medical school. Christina is attending Paterson University to major in English and hopes to become a successful author.
“I’d rather be poor and doing something that I love than being rich,” said Christina.
After graduation, the students will attend an event called Project Graduation that will ensure that they celebrate safely.
“I’m excited about graduation but more excited about Project Graduation,” said Tennaro. “Right now I have 17 buses I booked. I’m excited about giving them a total celebration.”
The students looked ahead to the future and reflected on the past.
Albery said she came to the U.S. when she was 11 years old, from the Dominican Republic, and learned English in less than a year.
Kalp was grateful because he came to NBHS from a private school and knew no one at first.
“I opened up more,” he said. “I was quiet. I never talked, and now I’m more outspoken. I feel confident.”
“I became more outgoing,” agreed Albery. “Now I’m really loud.”
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org