The North Bergen High School gym was a sea of red and gold on June 25, for the commencement of the the class of 2019. Families and friends packed the stands for a two-part sendoff of the 558 seniors. The event was originally set for Bruins Stadium, but wet weather brought things indoors, where two separate, but identical, ceremonies took place.
Things kicked off with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” performed by graduates, followed by the National Anthem sung by seven seniors.
Several dignitaries delivered speeches, including Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Commissioner Allen Pascual, Superintendent George Solter, Principal Richard Locricchio, and others.
Advice from fellow Bruins
Salutatorian Yahira Herrera’s address encouraged fellow classmates to keep their eyes on the future.
“My high school was a stepping stone into adulthood,” Herrera said. “We learned the future has many stumbling points in the way for us, but that should only encourage us to pursue our dreams with even more determination. At the end of the day, we need to pursue what makes us happy as individuals. We need to experience the world and all of its beauty, and all of its values. Continue chasing what you believe in.”
Valedictorian Riyakumari Jain discussed the struggles she faced during her first years in North Bergen’s school district after moving from India in 2012 with very limited English. She graduated from the ESL program in two years, and went on to top the GPA charts.
“I remember being sad that I had to repeat sixth grade and be put into ESL even though I’d studied up to seventh grade in India,” Jain said. “I remember not being able to communicate with the people around me. But today, here I am. High school has been the place where I learned valuable things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
She said things began to click just a few weeks prior to graduating. Moving forward, she hopes her fellow graduates will continue to surround themselves with the right people, be true to themselves, and be okay with patting themselves on the back every once in a while. “When fall comes, everything will change, as you step into the real world. It’s your chance to start fresh.”
First and foremost
The commencement included the first graduates of North Bergen High School’s newly founded STEM. Academy, which was instituted in 2015. The academy is a college prep program for students planning to pursue STEM-related careers, with an accelerated, cohort-style curriculum.
Ten STEM. students, the first to graduate this year, were Christine Adewale, Wayne Bertrand, Eliel Esquivel, Andrew Fuentes, Yahira Herrera, Riyakumari Jain, Cristina Morocho, Nidhi Parekh, Marianna Said, and Sebastian Tapia.
Twenty-nine students earned academic awards, and more than 130 scholarships were awarded. Twenty-five students received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Eight of those students received the President’s Award for Educational Achievement.
While commencement likely marked the last time all 558 graduates would be in a room together, Superintendent George Solter emphasized that there were many important memories that unified the graduating class.
“Every teacher along your way gave you something that I hope you’ll remember as you move onto your careers and post-secondary education,” Solter said. “Forty-one years ago, I graduated in this gymnasium as well. I think of the motto of the United States, ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ which means, ‘of many, one.’ You all came from different elementary schools, different states, and different countries, but you’re one graduating class.”
Before the close, Cristy Garcia recited a poem that she wrote as a parting speech in a creative writing class.