West New York’s Memorial High School graduated 424 students at Coviello Field June 22. The valedictorian (first in the class) was Giselle Martinez, and salutatorian (second in the class) was Jennifer Martinez.
“I would like to thank the wonderful staff of Memorial High School,” said Principal Scott Wohlrab.
“And the teachers and the support staff that take such great care of the students in our school. I would also like to thank the families and friends of the graduates for helping the graduates get through this milestone. You all deserve a great hand. Job well done.”
Superintendent of Schools Clara Brito Herrera said, “As your superintendent of schools, it is my honor to address each of you tonight, as we celebrate your achievements.”
Nearby sat Mayor Felix Roque, Board of Education President Adam Parkinson, and Roque’s chief of staff, Jonathan Castaneda, all wearing graduation gowns. Parkinson and Castaneda are former Memorial High School graduates.
“Our graduates have accomplished successes in all areas this year, including the arts, athletics, and academics,” Herrera said. “Thank you for being great students.”
To help instill school pride and “take my speech into a bold direction,” Herrera asked any Memorial alumni in the audience and on the stage to stand up, which quite a few did. Referencing the school’s mascot, she responded, “This is Tiger pride! Tigers at heart. You in the class of 2017 will soon be joining our alumni, in becoming the doctors, the lawyers, teachers, actors, scientists, engineers, politicians and businesspeople of tomorrow.”
Motioning to Castaneda and Parkinson, Mayor Roque said, “Take a look at what we have here. We have the elite scholars, and you guys are part of that.” He framed the students’ success in his own.
“I always say the word, ‘perseverance,’” Roque said. “I’ve been using that throughout my life. Yes, I became a doctor. Yes, I retired from the military. Now I’m proud to say I’m the mayor of this great town. It’s all about perseverance.”
Given the town’s large Hispanic population, Roque added that “I would say a majority of you are minorities, coming here from another country, or born from parents from another country. Pat yourselves on the back. Because of this country, you’re graduating from one of the best high schools there is. I’m very proud of all of you.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org