BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Whether wearing serious expressions or bright smiles, more than 400 members of the Ridge High School graduating Class of 2019 seemed happy to receive their diplomas at Thursday's commencement after four years at what is acknowledged to be a rigorous high school.
"Your graduation is a significant achievement in which you should take great pride," Ridge Principal Drew Krause told the gathered graduates and proud family members who filled the indoor gym at the school on June 20. The commencement recognized 466 graduating seniors, although not all were present for the ceremony.
Krause also offered the students encouragement as they go forth to the next phase in their lives, urging, "Always be your authentic self."
Two of the speakers at the commencement, Class President Isabela Garcia and another senior, Rachel Richards, referenced the day that began their history at the school: Sept. 8, 2015.
Garcia spoke of sitting in the car line to the high school on that first day "with our very own song list." She spoke of the different moments that were like a changing song list over the next four years.
During those years, she noted that there were times when, "Sleep might be seen as the most valuable thing in the world."
Finally, in senior year, she said, "We cherished old freindships and sparked new ones, all of which made it harder and harder to leave."
Richards said that she has always been defined by her love of stories, and identified the first chapter at Ridge as that first day in September 2015.
She said she remembered thinking, "What if everyone else had outgrown their awkward middle school phase over the summer except me?"
"This is the final chapter," Richards said of graduation. "In the next story, it's up to you."
Graduating twin sisters Emily and Katherine Wang, speaking about what they shared as well as their individuality, reminded graduates that they will be asked about themselves when they leave the school.
Speaking together, they said their answer will be, "I am a proud graduate of Ridge."
A few minutes before tossing their caps and leaving the high school, the Ridge Class of 2019 _ together for the last time _ chanted "Let's go, Devils!" together one more time. Here is a brief video.