BARNEGAT, NJ – Barnegat High School held its first of two graduations last night in a touching virtual rendition of pomp and circumstance. The good news is that plans are underway for the Class of 2020 to have a live and in-person graduation in July.

Thanks to technology, most of the 232 graduates appeared at the virtual graduation ceremony, which began with and the national anthem. No one had to worry about the inability to see or hear the presentations. All that was missing were the cheers and applause of family members.

Amanda Sharo, Senior Class Advisor commended the graduates on their strength and resilience. She noted that the Class of 2020 had been forced to grow up in a matter of months, something she said could take much longer. Sharo also credited the graduating class with gaining courage and an appreciation for everyday moments in life.

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“You’ve had to witness illness, tragedy and fear, when you should have been dancing at your senior prom,” said Sharo. “You should have been crowning this year’s Mr. Bengal and throwing up your hats at graduation.”

In her valedictorian address, Priscilla Pitiak characterized 2020 as presenting a year as a potential source of wisdom, with such range and dichotomy that would make it impossible to retain all of its moral enlightenment. Pitiak listed a number of the teachers and thanked them for their influence during her high school career. She also recognized the strength and resilience of the Class of 2020.

“We learned from each other, that no matter how strenuous and insurmountable the challenges of our lives may seem,” Pitiak shared. “We are equipped with all the tools necessary: grit, ambition, patience and optimism to overcome these obstacles and conquer our greatest dreams.”

Serving as both the SGA President and student representative to the Board of Education, Madelyn Russomano shared some words at the virtual graduation.  She mirrored Sharo’s words as far as the normal traditions the Class of 2020 would miss.

“On March 12, I helped with Mr. Bengal practice where we would continue to help teach the boys the dance,” said Russomano. “You could feel the excitement in the gym that we were finally reaching the point in the year that we were finally reaching the benefits of all of our hard work.”

Unfortunately, the very next day was when students learned that the school would be closing, at least on a temporary basis. No one knew it would be the last day the Class of 2020 to walk the halls of the high school.

“We did not know that March 13th would be the last day we would experience what was normal,” summed up Russomano.  “We deserve better…but have come together during this unprecedented time.”

Mikenna Reiser delivered a speech as the Salutatorian. Like the speakers before her, Reisner expressed her graduation to everyone for trying to help the graduating class during the untimely situation.

“I know that this is not how any of us pictured this as our senior year,” concurred Reisner. “Though the circumstances are unfortunate, they speak as a perfect testimony to the unpredictable nature of life. As we transition from children to adults, it is always important to always expect the unexpected.”

Brooklyn Schmalz, Senior Class President said she was “astonished” that despite the chain of events the class remained united.

“Your senior year is one to be remembered,” Schmalz said. “This one will never be forgotten…We will never be forgotten because the strength and courage that shines within each of us.”

Other speakers at the virtual graduation included Mayor John Novak, Board of Education President Michael Hickey, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis. Principal Stephen J. Nichol presented the graduates for the commencement exercises.

Latwis challenged the Class of 2020 to lead in creating a new and evolved normal, rather than simply putting together the pieces back together again.

“Can you build a world that is kinder, more beautiful and more understanding?” asked Latwis. “One that is inclusive and respectful of each other and different points of views?

“One that has communication and is grounded in listening with an open mind and constrictive dialogue?” Latwis continued. “Can you model a world that we spend a lifetime trying to build each other up, rather than tear each other down?”

Those who did or did not make the virtual graduation may participate in a live ceremony. The event will be scheduled on either July 8, 9, and 10 and will be conducted on the football field. The new opportunity came after Governor Phil Murphy changed guidelines to allow for 500 people to participate in a safely organized outdoor graduation.

“We are working hand in hand with the Barnegat Police Department to make sure we act within the guidelines,” said Latwis.

According to Latwis, he is waiting for graduates to respond regarding their intentions regarding the in-person ceremony.  Depending on the number who RSVP in the affirmative, the decision will be made regarding whether students can invite two guests or attend alone.

Barnegat High School ‘s Class of 2020 was also celebrated in a Senior Awards presentation in virtual format that can be viewed here.