BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Pride and tradition stood tall up on "The Hill" as 278 members of the Gov. Livingston class of 2018 filed onto Frey Field for the 58th annual commencement ceremony Tuesday evening.
The class of 2018 had a beautiful, but hot, evening for graduation. As family and friends filled the field and bleachers, the sun was setting providing shade for the guests who waited with excitement to see their graduates embark upon the next chapter of their lives.
The Highlander Band bagpipers led the procession of administrators, teachers and students down Highlander Way playing the traditional bagpipe ballad "Highlander Cathedral" followed by "Pomp and Circumstance" performed by the Gov. Livingston Commencement Band.
Nick Zambrotta had the honor of taking the sword stab into the ceremonial rock as he stood tall watching over his fellow graduates, with their decorated caps, reach the field that has been the backdrop of their lives for the past four years before they bid farewell to high school.
Jimmy Pitingolo, President of the Student Council, gave the Commencement Message that shed "a little justice" to the "numbers" that define the Class of 2018 and their astonishing accomplishments during their four years at Gov. Livingston.
There are 278 seniors, five sets of twins and one set of triplets, 17 snow days [causing the first ever Saturday school day], sports teams earned 9 sectional titles, eight weeks of advance placements, 14 volumes of The Highlander, eight theatrical productions, and this class was "guided by two principals and three assistant principals," said Pitingolo.
"We are leaving this building a little smarter than we entered, both as scholars and as human beings," he said. "We have grown into visionaries itching to take on the world and the experiences it has to offer." He said that members of the class have become EMTs, won film festivals, designed clothing lines and body jewelry, conducted scientific research, directed professional actors, and have done much more in sports, arts, engineering, and travel.
"I ask you to talk with at least one of these students up here and let yourself be inspired by the passion and drive," said Pitingolo. These students not only have such powerful and specific goals but also the ambition to go out and achieve them at the young ages of 15, 16 17, when the world might not be ready for us but we are ready for the world, he said.
"As we all go off to different paths, I ask my classmates one thing -- embrace the diverse opportunities that will present themselves to you. The platinum awarded Claymore will hold our memories as we look back at high school. The commonalities end here -- as we go off into our own lives bringing with us the character we developed at GL while leaving room for so much more.
I believe the legacy our grade leaves behind is our initiative, drive and pioneering spirit, or should I say Highlander spirit because we are not Pioneers. We let our goals and ideals propel us through life. Don't let your passions go unrealized to embrace the change and uncertainty that the future may bring and never ever pass on an opportunity to seek success," said Pitingolo.
Principal Robert Nixon said the graduating students have far exceeded the requirements and expectations during their time together. "It is with a great deal of pride that I stand before you with these tremendous students on our beautiful campus," said Nixon. "These students before us represent a graduating class that has established itself as one of the highest if not the highest achieving classes to ever come through our school," he said. He reflected on the accomplishments of the class that boasts four National Merit Finalists, they took more AP tests than any other class and passed at a higher rate, the students have been accepted and will be attending some of the finest colleges and universities in our nation.
The students have set track and field records, one was selected in the Major League Baseball draft, another rolled into the prom in an epic monster truck, said Nixon. "Others soared on stage with the cast of Peter Pan or part of the production of Sweet Surrender that earned an astonishing six nominations at the Montclair State University theater awards program. Their efforts forced us to think as we experienced the Days of Realization this spring. And as we put a great deal of attention towards school security, this class welcomed our class three officer Mark Stallone to our building along with the security vestibule. This past March they made sure the world heard their voices when they took part in the national school walk out against school violence. They said, 'Not us, Not here, Not now, Not ever again.' We listened. And I hope the rest of the world did as well."
"It is this type of leadership that the class of 2018 exhibited to us that tells me that these students are ready. Their eyes are open and they understand far more than degrees and classes. These students are truly ready to make a difference in our world," said Nixon.
Nixon shared two thoughts with the class of 2018 -- keep your eyes open -- new opportunities present themselves to you, don't proceed through life with blinders unwilling to consider change or the chance to experience something new. "You never know what opportunities may present themselves. But if you keep your eyes and mind open, there are endless opportunities available to you," said Nixon.
The second thought he shared was to chase what makes you happy. "Say hi to people, smile as you walk by, be happy. Life will present you with challenges, family can drive you crazy, and work can stress you out at times -- but life, family and work will be your passions. I urge you to pursue those passions that make you happy," said Nixon.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to you. What decisions will you make? What will you do to put yourself in the best position to live the life you want to live? When it comes down to it, you have to want to be great. You have to be willing to make some sacrifices, work hard and take responsibilities for your actions."
"I know this -- you are ready for what is next. So, move forward with eyes open and a smile on your face. Your dreams are out there. Everything you want out of this life is out there, go chase it and make us proud," said Nixon.
Superintendent Judith Rattner told the students to continue to make your mark. "It is obvious that you decided to create a path to success and leave a trail of significant achievements for other GL students to follow. I hope when you look back, you smile when you remember these accomplishments. As the history of GL marches on, I'm very confident that these milestones will remain symbols of the Class of 2018."
"As you chase after your dreams, know that doors you didn't even know existed will open to you. Listen with an open heart and an open mind to those who love you most. You may hear a grain of truth that will later become the foundation of your entire belief system."
She said to strive for achievement, always be curious and explore your options. "May you always remember your days at Gov. Livingston as the best of your life and yet know the best is still ahead."
Board of Education president Doug Reinstein along with the BOE members presented the diplomas to the graduating seniors. On behalf of the Board of Education, Reinstein told the seniors to aim high and learn from as many people as you can along the way.
Nick Zambrotta presented the 2018 Senior Class Gift of $2,500 to the Isadora Seibert Foundation, $500 to the Environmental Club, $500 to the Interact Club, $500 to the Year Book club, and the balance of $1,224.29 to the GL PTO Cool the Schools Campaign.
Music was performed by the Governor Livingston Commencement Band led by Nicholas O'Sullivan and the Gov. Livingston Choir led by Joe Elefante, along with the ASL Signers during the singing of Stephen Schwartz' "In Whatever Time We Have."
Congratulations to the graduates of the Gov. Livingston Class of 2018!