Eight public high schools in Jersey City held their commencement ceremonies over two days on June 20-21.
The cap-and-gown affairs were the pinnacle of success for graduating students after four years of high school, and a journey that started when they entered school as toddler.
These are the best two day so the year,” said Mayor Steven Fulop, who made his way from ceremony to ceremony with an entourage that included Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker, Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas and others from the school staff
The salutatorians and valedictorians from each school carried similar messages for the future, though in most of the speeches given during these ceremonies the salutatorian tended to look back with nostalgia at the experiences and accomplishments of their classes, while the valedictorian tended to look ahead to what each graduate might accomplish in the future.
“High School is a different experience for everyone,” said Maheen Khan, salutatorian at Dickenson High School.
She called for a moment of silence for those students – for whatever reason – could not attend the commencement.
Khan broke up in tears that won the immediate sympathy of the audience that included fellow graduates, parents, friends, teachers and administrators.
“My experience here was wonderful,” she said, adding she was confident that her fellow graduates would go out into the world and make history.
She said it was tough standing before them at the commencement to talk about her experiences.
“I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone,” she said.
Riya Shrestha, valedictorian, who will attend Stevens School of Technology in the fall to study engineering, looked ahead at the potential of the class and for a reason to get up and want to live.
“We are one step away from the world. We need to make that world better, a place where there is no racism or sexism.” – Riya Shrestha, valedictorian
At each school Fulop asked the graduating students to look back at and applaud their parents. He said part of the credit went to the parents of the students, who lent their support.
“There are a lot of people who have invested a lot of work in you, from the teachers standing on the side to supervisors, to people standing on the stage,” he said. “But most importantly, your parents have invested a lot of time and resources to see you turn the page onto the next chapter of your lives.”
He encouraged the graduates to stay involved with Jersey City, calling it their city and their world.
“You all have a responsibility to make a difference,” he said.
In each school, each of the top students reflected on their own memories and their own vision of what the future would be. In Ferris High School, Valedictorian Ashley Eileen Mireles looked ahead and Salutatorian Willis Do pondered similar themes
Shafaq Tanweer was valedictorian at Infinity High school, and Raymond Flores was salutatorian; Semon Makar Zekry was valedictorian at Innovation High School, and Madonna Barsoum was salutatorian. At Liberty High School, Alexsas Misoka was salutatorian and Bryan Gonzalez, salutatorian; Nasir Milligan was valedictorian at Lincoln High School and Mary Janine Elise Ang was salutatorian. Leo Grace was valedictorian at McNair Academy and Agrawal Harshal was salutatorian. At Snyder High, Maria Pineda was valedictorian and Sumayah Kayume was salutatorian.
The backgrounds of each of the top students was a diverse as their ethnicity, some attending local elementary schools, some charter schools, while still some from as far away as Pakistan
Author Tamika McReynolds, who was part of the group that made their way from school to school, didn’t speak in all the schools, but at Snyder High School she talked about students not being afraid to take chances in their lives.
Superintendent Walker looked out on each class said, “I can’t wait for the world to see you.”
But he cautioned the graduates that the world will judge them by what they say and do, and how they treat others.
“But I want you all to make history,” He said.
Board President Thomas said for the first time the district will begin to track students’ progress after graduation to see which colleges they attend, what career paths they take, and to try and identify feedback from remediation courses among others that the students may encounter in college or career pathways to strengthen the local district’s curriculum and instruction.
Thomas also talked about the issues faced by the Board of Education, funding, taxes, staff, programs, facilities and other things.
“Many students, parents and staff have reached out concerned about the challenges we face, but you have also expressed concern about the decibel potentially silencing discernment,” he said, “about the noise potentially drowning out the robust decisions. You guys are right, we can navigate through democratic dissent and disagreement without tearing each other down; without name calling; without grandstanding. We want to assure and promise each of you that we work very hard and we will continue to cut through the decibel and separate the signal from the noise. Our work is solely guided by your best interests and your best interests only.”
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com