BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Columbia Middle School eighth grade promotion ceremony took place inside at the Ken Stiefel Theatre Monday evening due to the severe heat.
The tropical sound of the Columbia Steel Pan Ensemble kept the air festive as the 156 graduating eighth grade students entered the auditorium for the processional march onto the stage.
Principal Frank Geiger spoke of how the "enough" movement will define this generation. He talked about how the students decided to join the national movement and staged a walk out of classes in order to share a moment of solidarity with the people of Parkland, FL. "More than 200 students left class and proceeded to the gym and listened quietly while a dozen students spoke for 17 minutes about school safety, kindness and promising a better future. It was quite a scene and they owned it," Geiger said. The setting included a slide show with an introductory slide that said "#enough."
He told the students and audience filled with parents, grandparents and siblings, "You have learned -- enough war, enough poverty, enough inequality, enough hate, enough bullying -- and even after declaring in fairly bold language -- enough school violence -- it continues. So, the question goes to you today, eighth grade -- how do you define enough. And when faced with the choice of allowing something to happen or not happen, how will you decide what is exactly enough. It won't be easy," said Geiger. -- "Think about the people that are here with you today -- from these people will come your influences, goals, your aspirations and unfortunately the pressure you and your friends will need to overcome at times. Students, your teachers know you are ready enough --- we hope you are prepared enough for the challenges." -- His hope for the graduating students is to have more than enough of the good things in life.
He called out a few of the students including Sam Lugo who spoke to her peer group of how to make the school safer by people being more empathetic and mindful of each other. She said, if we can learn to respect others, we can keep these devastating events from happening again. Geiger told her he hopes she continues to spread her positive messages wherever life takes her. He congratulated the students and wished them "all the good things the world has to offer."
Roshni Datta provided the Welcome Address and gave a retrospect of her time at Columbia Middle School -- with a smile on her face, she said she has grown and changed in many ways in her three years at Columbia. She said her journey was full of twists and turns -- from the scary halls as a sixth grader, to the turbulence she felt in seventh grade due to the increased work load to the growing stress of work in eighth grade -- "but it was worth it," said Roshni. "Eighth grade was the most enjoyable year of middle school -- this year I have developed hopes for my future, and a plan on what to do next. I now have a path to follow, as I am sure all of the students sitting beside me have as well." She reminded everyone in the room that they have a sky full of endless possibilities, never forget your dreams and never stop believing. Always remind yourself that you have the power to do the impossible and never ever forget you have the power to dream, she said.
Reagan Hopek gave the Class Address giving her class advise to believe in their self and abilities -- gold is in the future, she said. "If you don't prepare to succeed, when the opportunity comes, you won't be ready. -- This is applicable to the future for all of us. If we prepare well, then we will get to go to a college of our choice. Work hard and focus on what can happen." Adding, "We have grown physically, emotionally and academically. We are ready to take all the opportunities we have prepared for."
Video: Columbia Middle School Steel Pan Ensemble, Chorus and Guitar Club
Superintendent Judith Rattner challenged the students to be the finest representatives of Columbia Middle School ever -- she challenged them to pursue their dreams; to do one thing at a time; always choose to do the right thing; not to be discouraged by a failure; always find meaning in what you do and enjoy life on a daily basis; always be kind; laugh often; don't waste time by living someone else's life; be excellent; continue to find friends that you can truly treasure; create special memories everyday; and most importantly, she challenged the students to truly recognize the important people in their life. -- "Choose to remember the good times you have in common with fellow classmates -- build on the foundation of respect and affection you have shared in the three years you have all been together," said Rattner. -- "When you think back on your days at Columbia you remember them as the best of your life, yet know the best is yet to come. My wish for you is that you meet my challenge and become the finest graduates of Columbia Middle School."
Before handing out the diplomas, Board of Education President Doug Reinstein said, "May today's middle school graduation be just one small step in your educational journey and let your high school experience take you on a path of your choosing wherever that path may be. We wish you the best of luck in high school and congratulations."
Robert Nixon, Principal of Gov.Livingston, welcomed the class of 2022 to "Highlander land." He said, "We are proud of our program at Gov. Livingston and we sincerely hope it will inspire you to be the best you can be. We look forward to seeing you up on The Hill."