The air conditioning failed in McNair High School’s hall on Tuesday, June 26, forcing almost 200 graduating seniors to switch locations to Ferris High School on a marathon day of graduations across the city. Then, Ferris’s air conditioning went kaput, forcing school officials to relocate again, this time to the Dickinson High School Auditorium right after Dickinson held its own commencement for more than 450 students.
At the earlier Dickinson ceremony, salutatorian Anais Moran said her school left a mark on its graduating class.
“I know some of you are hoping to leave Dickinson and never look back, but the truth is you’ve been molded by Dickinson and it is a part of you now,” she told her classmates.
Moran graduates with a grade point average of 96.17 and will be attending NJIT to study environmental engineering.
Speaking briefly in Spanish, she gave a rough translation. “My mother once told me, fly as high as you can without getting where you came from,” she said. “But I know some of you do. This is why this day is about you.”
She added, “We all grew up slowly throughout the four years in Dickinson, watching the awkward stages of puberty hit many of us if not all of us.” But she also cautioned not to dwell on the past too much: “You have a whole future ahead of you.”
Keep moving in the right direction
Sandy Botros earned this year’s valedictorian honors at Dickinson with a GPA of 96.55. She who will attend Rutgers University to study pharmacy and medicine.
“We all have different career choices,” Botros said, “but as long as we keep moving in the right direction we will become successful and our dreams will come true.”
She said the class has learned that success doesn’t come without hard work. “Over the last four years, we learned to work together as a team and how to teach each other, and how much we need each other,” she said, noting that her parents taught her a strong work ethic.
Success, she said, isn’t only for the individual’s sake, but for the community as well.
“Mae West once said you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough,” she said.
Eight graduations in two days
Jersey City hosted eight high school graduations in two days. At most of them, speakers included local principals and teachers, as well as comments from Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles, Mayor Steven Fulop, and Board President Sudhan Thomas.
At one ceremony, Fulop repeated the adage, “To those who are given much, much is expected.”
Lyles expanded this. “The mayor said we should expect great things from you,” she said, “but I say we need great things from you.”
She also praised the parents of the graduates. “It is not easy taking children from diapers to diplomas,” she said.
Thomas called the graduates “beacons of hope” and said the school has given them the foundation for living the rest of their lives.
Being problem solvers
Parents at the McNair ceremony filled the large hall with their voices, which echoed throughout the school.
McNair Salutatorian Shivani Patel made the class laugh when he spoke about his tendency to sleep in class and procrastinate.
“It’s no surprise to anyone that I wrote this speech 24 hours before I was supposed to give it,” he said. “Nobody was shocked more than I was when they told me I was this year’s salutatorian.”
But behind the humor was nostalgia for a passing time in his life, and a reflection on the changes the Class of 2018 faced: changes in testing, changes in governor, changes in the presidency.
He foresaw the class going out into the world to face a much more complex world than many students of the past.
Suki Zhang, McNair valedictorian, was more strident, and laid out a progressive platform of action for the future.
“We need to be problem solvers,” she told her classmates.
Her voice broke at times, especially when it came to thanking her parents and her sister for their help in getting her through high school.
“My parents are the bravest people I know,” she said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.