BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It was an evening of celebration of past accomplishments and hope for future ones at the Governor Livingston graduation, as 252 students received their diplomas on Thursday, June 19. 

“Despite what many people believe, those four long years were not spent sitting in desks twiddling our thumbs. We've accomplished a lot. Look back, and remember everything that's happened,” Student Council Executive Board member and graduation speaker Ryan Stahlin said to the crowd of hundreds on hand to watch the graduation. “It’s amazing that we even had time to sit in our desks.”

The ceremony began with a procession of the Class of 2014, led by the Governor Livingston bagpipe ensemble and the ceremonious placing of the Highlander sword. This was followed with the flag salute led by Executive Board President Ian St. Clair and the playing of the national anthem by the Governor Livingston jazz band. The presentation of the class gift was then made by Student Council member Jensen Butler, which was a donation to the Isadora Seibert Foundation, in memorial of the Governor Livingston teacher who passed away earlier this year.

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Following this, Stahlin then gave his commencement address.

“An individual isn't successful just because he or she has been told by others that they are successful,” he explained. “Success doesn't exist in the minds of others. So then where does it exist? It exists in your own personal vision. Your vision of what future success looks like will be different from the person sitting next to you, and theirs will be different from the person sitting next to them. A vision isn't just a goal. A goal is small, a vision needs to be big, so big that people will wonder how you can ever hope to achieve success in it.”

In his own speech of reflection and congratulation, Principal McKinney lauded the collective spirits of the fifty-fourth graduating class from Governor Livingston, in their efforts to help others. “As a class, our seniors have been faced with a great many challenges over the past four years. They’ve been faced with disappointment, sadness and tragedy along the way—perhaps more sadness then young adults should have to face,” he said, referencing the passing of a fellow student and teacher in the same calendar year.

“But through those dark times, you did something special: you came together to help. You saw people who needed your assistance, and offer your time, your energy, and your effort.”

"The Class of 2014 was a class of difference makers,” Principal McKinney told TAP into Berkeley Heights continuing with the theme of celebrating this class’ successes and resilience. “Although they could be considered quiet in comparison to other years, they took action to make their school and our community a better place.  They supported each other through good times and in bad times.  Whether it was St. Baldrick's, Relay for Life, or Rachel's Challenge, our students actively worked to make a difference and start a chain reaction to help others.  We are very proud of what they have accomplished!"

McKinney also remarked on the significance of commencement, as not only the final recognition of their time as Highlanders, but also as a time to look forward to the future.

Yili Wu, Co-Editor in Chief of The Highlander, the Governor Livingston School newspaper, echoed this polarity of feeling. “It's one thing to graduate elementary or middle school, where you take classes in different hallways than the past few years. But graduating high school is a league of its own. It's the beginning of a transition into adulthood, and while there's a lot to miss from the past four years, it's both exciting and terrifying to finally get thrown into the ‘real world’.”

The ceremony also included a performance by the Governor Livingston Choir and ASL students of “In Whatever Time We Have,” as well as an address from Superintendent Judy Rattner.

On a day in which so much is focused success and realization, Stahlin implored his classmates to not only look back on what that have already achieved, but also to look forward to what the future may hold. 

“Eventually, you will come to a point where you believe you have accomplished your vision, and are successful. That may very well be, but don't stop there,” Stahlin explained. “If you could succeed in one area, why limit yourself? Create a new vision, and become successful in another area. But only you can control your own success. Use every skill you've learned from everyone here at GL.”

Congratulations to the Governor Livingston Class of 2014!

GL Class of 2014 Graduation Video

Video Credits: GLHSTV

Slideshow credits: Bobbie Peer - TAP Into Berkeley Heights thanks the Gov. Livingston families that contributed pictures.