North Bergen High School sent 568 seniors to college and elsewhere with a graduation ceremony in Braddock Park’s Bruins Stadium on Thursday, June 22. The graduating class earned around $1 million in scholarship offers not including government financial aid, but including academic, athletic, merit, and community scholarships.
According to the graduation program, the seniors were accepted to colleges including the Tampa Culinary Arts and Design School, William Paterson University, and Columbia University.
This year’s valedictorian is Gineen Abuali and the salutatorian is Josemiguel Rodriguez. Both students are headed to St Peter’s University in Jersey City on full scholarships; Abuali will be studying pre-law with a focus on human rights.
Speakers included Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who is also the town’s director of elementary and secondary education; Paschal Tennaro, principal for North Bergen High School; Superintendent of Schools George Solter Jr., and senior Maria Vizcaino, who gave reflections on her time at the school. Town commissioners including Allen Pascual, who is the director of student personnel at NBHS, were also present at the ceremony.
Other speakers included Iman Mohammad Alhayek of the North Hudson Islamic Education Center, who read a section of the Quran for the students before wishing them well in their future endeavors.
“This is a ceremony just to celebrate all of the work that they put in, in front of their parents,” Solter said, as the graduates began filing onto the stadium field.
“We always wish them the best as they move on from high school towards whatever they’re going to do. We feel that not only did we educate them academically, but what we want to make sure is that they’re ready for life.”
You’re going to make this world a great place.” – Nicholas Sacco
Mayor Sacco framed the graduates’ current situation as just the next phase in their lives. “Everyone looks at you and says, ‘What a great year. Senior year is so easy. You all have these wonderful things,’” Sacco told the kids. “And that’s all true. But it’s also the one year in your lives that anxiety creeps in. It creeps in because, for the first time in your lives, the future’s not laid out for you.”
Sacco added that, “You have to make decisions. And real decisions. Now you’re going off into the world. You have to decide where you want to go. Community colleges, university, the Armed Forces, into trade schools. All these things have to go through your mind.”
The mayor reassured the kids, revealing to them that he changed his major four times in college. He had even planned to drop out his first college year, before his parents convinced him otherwise.
“That’s how tough it can be in certain times,” he said. “Get through with it. Bear with it. You’re all going to be successful. I tell you, ‘Relax.’ The future’s yours. You’re going to make this world a great place.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org