CLARK, NJ -  On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Class of 2020 celebrated their long-delayed and anxiously-awaited graduation. Donning masks and socially distancing, the event was quite different from any of the prior 63 graduating classes that have completed their education at ALJ. As the customary “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the background, graduates and their parents entered the field and found their assigned seats on the football field. The event was also broadcasted live on the school webpage.

The graduation began promptly at 11:00 am with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. Mrs. Jennifer Feeley, principal at ALJ, was the Master of Ceremonies.

As tradition would have it, the Class President and Salutatorian, Heidi Compton, gave the first student address. Compton’s remarks centered on the accomplishments the class had made in four years at ALJ. Compton expressed it clearly when she said, “We are not defined by the pandemic, we are defined by our accomplishments going forward,” that theme resounded in most of the speeches.

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Taylor Turek, Vice President of the Class of 2020 thanked all the individuals that made the graduation possible. She also thanked teachers, administrators and staff for their efforts throughout their four years. Turek charged the class with Viviane Greene’s words “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Turek applauded the students for their perseverance during the pandemic.

Valedictorian Robert Luckasiewicz started his speech by offering his condolences to anyone who had lost a loved one to Covid-19. Luckasiewicz concentrated his comments on the initiatives that the Class of 2020 made at Johnson. “It is unusual for any class to start so many new activities and traditions. From teachers and administrators shaving their heads for charity, to creating Active Minds, Winter Blues, and so many others, the Class of 2020 made it happen.”

Following the student addresses, brief remarks were offered by administration. Board of Education President, Steven Donkersloot, congratulated the class on their achievement and persistence. Donkersloot asked the students to think about everything they had gained in high school. He closed with a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Superintendent Ed Grande congratulated the class and thanked everyone involved in making the actual graduation possible. “We are confident that you will make us proud,” Grande said encouraging the class to reach new heights.

Principal Feeley was the final speaker. Feeley also thanked everyone involved in making the event happen. “It took the entire community to make this happen,” said Feeley.

She went on to discuss the many contributions made by the class, “This class shined.” Going on to say, “Covid-19 changed your senior year and your experience here at ALJ, but it cannot erase your contribution to the school. In everything you do, be kind and accept others for who they are,” Feeley said in closing.

The speeches were followed by the presentation of diplomas by Board President Steven Donkersloot to every graduate.

There is no mistaking that this  wasn’t the same as every other graduation from ALJ, but then again, 2020 is not the same as any other year.

Despite the differences this year, administrators, teachers and parents were all pleased to simply be able to have a graduation.