BELMAR, NJ — As Belmar Elementary School celebrated the graduation of its 55-member eighth-grade class on June 15, there was a common thread running through the remarks made during the event — the school will always be family.

“I remember when I came to Belmar, you feel like you’re part of a family,” said graduate Christopher Torres during his graduation speech. “You see your friends, siblings, cousins when you’re walking the halls.”

As the Class of 2017 enters high school where they’ll meet new friends, he said, “Do not forget where you came from.”

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Family members and friends filled the school’s auditorium to mark this academic milestone with a ceremony highlighted by words of inspiration, gratitude and anticipation of the future that lies ahead for the graduating class.  

After spending a total of 10 years at the school — from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade — graduate Maggie Jelley broke it down by the numbers. “I’ve spent a total of 12,600 hours, equaling 1½ years of my life here. I feel like I’m saying good-bye to my family,” she said. “We’ve been constantly inspired by those around us.”

Classmate Karen Li recalled coming to Belmar as a kindergartner who barely spoke English. She encouraged her fellow graduates to chase their dreams and offered this advice to the school’s younger students: “Enjoy this school.  Everything will go really fast.”

School Principal Lisa Gleason recognized the graduates’ achievements by referencing the book, “I Wish My Teacher Knew …”, which has gone viral throughout the educational world as teachers and students create their own versions of the title to complete as a learning experience.

“I wish these graduates knew how incredibly unique and special they are, how they are the greatest treasure, and how high school will be exciting and filled with new opportunities,” she said. “It’s been my honor to watch you grow and mature. I am filled with pride for all of you.”

And Ms. Gleason told them to remember this: “Belmar Elementary School will always be here for you.”

Here are the graduates of Belmar Elementary School’s Class of 2017:

Diana Aguilar-Vasquez

Julian Edgar Alacan

Brian G. Arias

Reece Xavier Brutsman

Kevens Caballero

Jy'Asia Nichole Chaney

Taylor Elizabeth Clayton

Nicholas Mario Connelly

Elizabeth Patricia Connors

Jason Andrew Cramer

Anthony Louis Crespo-Cruz Jr.

Peter Joseph DiGiuseppantonio

Thomas Robert Fahy

Jacob Reilly Ganley

America Garay Jimenez

Eiram G. Gonzalez Jr.

Audrey Lynn Hardmeyer

Lindsey Marie Hardmeyer

Margaret Bella Held

Nicholas M. Holby

Ayden James Hope

Maggie Claire Jelley

Sabrina Knight

Ryan J. Kocienski

Jack M. Lackner

Karen Li Trenyce

Jailen M. Lopez

Diego A. Martinez

Yvonne I. Martinez

Ashton John McHale

Elisa Rose McLaughlin

Vanessa Meza Osorio

Taina C. Montoya

Grace Ashley Munoz-Luna

Kahnchiaz Tseday Nealy

Eliut Gamaliel Nicolas Morales

Patrick Ryan O'Chat

Jake Andrew Oleszkiewicz

Orlando Osorio

Stephanie E. Perreault

Alexander James Pilatos

Kayla Marie Pyne

Jacqueline L. Ramirez

Luis Eduardo Reyes Torres

Aalyah Diamond Richards

Kayla Starr Scofield

Gina Marie Soluri

Christopher Torres

Andy Vasquez

Abril Janely Velazquez

Joseph RJ Walsh

Allison Marie Waters

Miah Marie Whille

Serena Wildman

Dominic Jordan Williams

 

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