LIVINGSTON, NJ — The 489 members of Livingston High School’s Class of 2020 ended a month’s worth of graduation activities on Thursday with the school’s first virtual graduation ceremony, which was broadcast live on LTV and the Livingston Public Schools Facebook page.
Following the ceremony, community members helped the new Livingston alumni celebrate by stepping outside their homes and making noise as part of a town-wide “clap out” held in conjunction with the township. Earlier in the night, the district also shared two half-hour segments featuring comments from seniors and messages of congratulations from their teachers.
On behalf of the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE), President Ronnie Konner officially declared all graduates eligible to receive their diplomas, which she and other administrators presented to seniors throughout the week during a three-day event dubbed “My Graduation Moment.”
“You are now ready to take with you the lessons learned, the friendships made, your successes, your failings and dreams as you move forward to leave your imprint on the world,” she said. “You have already started. Some have identified an area of interest; others are ready to explore; and some have yet to imagine.”
LHS Principal Mark Stern also addressed the seniors during the ceremony, stating that the spring semester was “unique, challenging, disappointing, triumphant and filled with life lessons that we did not necessarily ask for,” but that it led them to “the moment that the Class of 2020 has earned [and] deserved.”
“It is a beautiful evening to celebrate; it is beautiful because it is yours,” he said. “Bask in it.”
During his first time speaking at an LHS graduation, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block acknowledged the parents, guardians and family members of the graduates, stating that the seniors “collectively have a lot to be proud of” and have “grown and flourished over the years” with their families’ support.
“Parents and guardians, tonight is a milestone in your students’ lives and yours,” said Block, whose own two children graduated 5th and 8th grade this month. “Our goal as parents is to constantly try to savor every moment. It’s not always easy to do, but I hope you will savor your time together with them tonight.”
Students who addressed their classmates included Class of 2020 Valedictorian Erin Chang, Co-Salutatorians Nicole Rong and Grace Levey and Class Officers Reba Jojy and Victoria Youseff.
Chang spoke about the importance of having goals, but urged her classmates not to let those goals define their lives, stating that the greatest lesson she learned during the pandemic was to cherish personal connections made with others.
“In the future, let’s work hard for that promotion and study hard for that exam, but let’s not neglect the other things that matter in our lives—such as those conversations we have with a friend; a classmate; the people we wish we were sitting next to right now,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, it’s who we surround ourselves with that matters.
“When we look back at our class 20 years from now, we won’t remember the grade on that biology test, the time on that track mile, or the lines in that school play. We’ll remember the jokes we shared with our lab partners, the dinners we had with our teammates, and who was with us up on that stage.”
Rong urged her fellow graduates to realize that while they can continue making wishes and hoping for things to change, they also “have more control than [they] think.”
“I know I’m not alone when I say that these past four years at Livingston High School have transformed me from self-involved to self-aware––from anxious to fill my own needs to eager to consider others’ needs,” she said. “Likewise, we, students, have also realized our control during a crisis that’s out of our control. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on so many issues that we’ve proven we can change…
“It doesn’t have to take four years to realize what we are in control of and what our efforts can do. It might just take one pandemic––one class of students. Today, at this moment, my only wish is that we will continue doing what we love and along the way, become the better leaders that our world needs.”
Levey spoke about what she has learned from the highs and lows she and her classmates have experienced over the last four years.
“This is what I have learned: that high school wasn’t only about those highs and lows; that life—real life—is about the ordinary, mundane things that happen in the quiet pauses between them,” said Levey. “It is those ordinary moments that make up the fabric of who we are…It is about growing and learning about ourselves with the help of amazing friends, inspirational teachers and awesome people we met along the way. Our futures are determined not only by all of the things that we have accomplished here, but rather by what we do with what we have learned here.
“And this is what I know: that our resilience during these times of adversity will serve us in immeasurable ways in our futures. And this is what I hope: that our new normal teaches us to truly appreciate what our old normal taught us to take for granted.”
Levey concluded by encouraging the seniors to view their virtual graduation day as “the first day of the rest of [their] lives” and “a celebration of a future that’s awaiting each and every one of [them].”
Similarly, Jojy spoke of June 25 as a day to celebrate “not only the end of something great, but the beginning of something new.
“Think of how far we’ve come both individually and as a class,” she said. “Now it is our time to take on the world, to find and pursue our passions. Our time as a senior class will not be remembered by our grades or by the challenges we faced along the way, but by the important relationships we formed here. Let’s not focus on the moments we could not have, but the memories we made.”
Youseff led the class in moving their tassels and tossing their caps prior to heading outside for the town-wide clap out.
The full graduation ceremony can be viewed any time BY CLICKING HERE.
TAPinto Livingston thanks the community members who shared the photos above, which have been taken at the various graduation celebrations held in honor of the Class of 2020 beginning on June 1.
A post-graduation ceremony will be held in person on the LHS turf for all seniors on July 8.
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