ALJ High School Class of 2014 Graduates

Valedictorian Vincent Banek carries the ALJ Flag Credits: Susan Bonnell
Vincent Banek was the Class Valedictorian   Credits: Susan Bonnell
Members of the Class of 2014 perform the National Anthem Credits: Susan Bonnell
Class President Lauren Firetto addresses the class Credits: Susan Bonnell
Salutatorian Justin Lakkis delivers his speech Credits: Susan Bonnell
When asked why he alone received a standing ovation when his name was called, graduate Mohamed G. Elgarhy said "They just like me." Credits: Susan Bonnell

CLARK, NJ - The Arthur L Johnson High School celebrated the achievements of 198 graduates during its fifty-eighth commencement exercises held last evening at Nolan Field. The processional stretched across the field to the doors of the school as the students entered slowly in pairs. The ALJ Concert Band performed Pomp and Circumstance.  Musical performances by the ALJ Chorus were featured throughout the program.

Salutatorian Justin Lakkis spoke from the heart about life, friends, and the teachers who had contributed to his experiences.  He said, “Life is the sum of all we ever experience.  Life is truly enjoyable from my perspective because of friends and the memories that materialize from those relationships.”

Class President Lauren Firetto recognized the achievements of the school’s many sports teams and clubs. In contemplating the class’ similarities, she also addressed the diversity and the unique nature of many of the students. She recognized those who did not strive for popularity but who followed only their own path and happiness. “So many of you have left an impact on me and have opened my eyes to a greater sense of reality,” she said.

Sign Up for E-News

After sharing some personal stories of classmates and lessons he’d learned at ALJ, Valedictorian Vincent Banek recounted the success of the boys’ lacrosse team in winning what seemed an unwinnable title. “Work hard,” Banek implored, “Work harder than those around you and you will have success.”

A slideshow of photos from the evening:

Board of Education President Lorraine Aklonis spoke of the impact of technology on the graduates’ future. She cautioned the students to treat technology with respect in a world in which a single action or decision can have lasting impact.  “You must make all of your decisions and choices with the expectation that you may have to answer for them far into the future,” she told the students.

Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Knops spoke briefly. He reminded the students that life’s difficulties are often only temporary and that good spirits will produce positive results.  He urged the students to surround themselves with their families and good mentors.

ALJ Principal Rick Delmonaco told the assembly that he had spoken to the class at length earlier in the day. Having been with this class since they had been in sixth grade, Delmonaco said that he felt a special closeness to the students.  He reminded the students of a quote from Walt Disney, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  

The names of the graduates were read by Valedictorian Vincent Banek and Salutatorian Justin Lakkis.  Diplomas were presented by members of the Board of Education.  The personalities of many of the students were reflected in the cheers, whistles and shouts from fellow graduates and the audience.

Some graduates were solemn, some were ebullient and still others seemed surprised to find themselves there.  At least one mortarboard went flying in excitement as the graduate leapt across the stage. As if to underscore the words of Aklonis, Youseff Hijazi approached the stage with his cell phone and took a selfie before accepting his diploma.

When the names had been read, the graduates stood as a class.  They flipped the tassels on their mortarboards and were introduced as the Class of 2014.  At that moment, fireworks went off overhead, welcoming the students to the next phase of their lives.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Wed, February 21, 7:00 PM

The Cranford Hotel (hosted by Calvary Lutheran Church), Cranford

Beer & Bible

Religions And Spirituality

Thu, February 22, 6:00 PM

UCEDC, Cranford

Next Level Business Planning

Business & Finance


Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Clark VFW : Spotlight on Joseph Horling

February’s spotlight is on Joseph Horling , Staff Sergeant US Army 1942-1946.

Joe was born in Rahway NJ on Oct 1, 1920.  He and his brother Anthony were born to Anthony Sr. and Bertha Horling .  Joe’s father was born in Munich and his mother Bertha in Austria. 

Joe enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1942.  Eight months later, in 1943, he enlisted in the US ...

Clark's Hehnly School is “Cruisin’ Through Winter” for a Good Cause

February 17, 2018

CLARK, NJ - Over 150 students from kindergarten through fifth grade had a blast “Cruisin’ Through Winter” in the Hehnly auditorium. The 4th annual dance, organized by physical education teacher Joe Sortino, was held to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a foundation that builds awareness and raises money for childhood cancers.

Encouraging exercise for a good cause, Mr.

Former US Postal Service Employee from Rahway Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes to Deliver Narcotics Packages

February 13, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ - Leonard Gresham, a 50-year-old Rahway resident, pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to intercepting and delivering packages containing illegal narcotics in exchange for cash bribes, it was announced by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpentino.

Gresham pleaded guilty U.S. District Judge Esther D. Salas in Newark federal court, where he was charged with one count of ...

Choosing a College With the 'Right' Fit

Do you know if your child is choosing a college with the right fit?  Do you know what the right fit means or why it matters?  Take a listen to Chris Curran's latest chat about why fit matters and don't forget to check out his book College Funding Secrets.  

Check out other columns by Chris here.

Have You Talked to Your Child About the Cost of College?

Have you talked to your child about the cost of college?  Do you plan to?  Do you know why you should? Take a listen to Chris Curran's video below as he explains why the student needs to be involved in the financial conversations about college.  Check out Chris' book at College Funding Secrets.  


Check out other columns by Chris here.

Scutari vs Mahr

February 14, 2018

I read with interest in a local newspaper regarding the Union county democrat party political infighting for their “county chair” selection.  There were 2 letters juxtaposed, each one listing supporters of either Senator Scutari or Fanwood Mayor Mahr, who are the two main people vying for the “boss” position.

Although I am a democrat I am not a committee ...


AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!