DENVILLE, NJ -- A sea of green caps and gowns and the pearly white smiles of the Morris Knolls High School Class of 2016 were on full display as the seniors became alumni at their graduation ceremony June 23.
Members of the Class of 2016 were met with applause by faculty, staff and parents as they walked down the Caruso Field 50-yard line for the last time as students. After a rousing Pledge of Allegiance and performance of the Star Spangled Banner, commencement exercises officially began.
Speeches filled the majority of the ceremony as graduates spoke about memories, moving on and remembering the joys the last four years at Knolls have brought the class. Senior Class President Maximillian Berry addressed the crowd first, reminding his classmates where they were four years ago.
"I remember Mr. Cleffi telling us at our freshman meeting that high school would be the fastest four years of our lives, He wasn't wrong,” Berry said. “When I reflect on my time at Morris Knolls, things seemed to be happening way too fast. This is why it's important to take notice and remember it's the little things in life."
Berry's speech centered on little moments at Morris Knolls that, in the end, became big things in the real world. Berry also spoke about what the Class of 2016 is as a whole.
"I've given a lot of thought as to who we, the Class of 2016, are and I must say, our class is very unique,” he said. “We tend to be a reserved class that is fairly intellectual, business minded and creative. We are motivated individuals that rise to the occasion."
Salutatorian Julia Buckingham addressed the crowd with her memories from Knolls but jokingly reminded everyone of what a salutatorian really is.
"To explain being the salutatorian, I turned to Urban Dictionary,” she said. “’Salutatorian: the person who missed being valedictorian by a few GPA points. Second place is the first loser.’ However, this didn't make any sense to me. Looking out at my fellow classmates, I don't see any losers."
Buckingham spoke about her time at Morris Knolls with a smile on her face, reminiscing on the last four years and how they ultimately flew by.
"While writing this speech, I began to think about the passage of time and how it flies by,” she said. “About how there is never enough of it, and life sneaks up on us so fast that often we struggle to appreciate the time we have while it is still available."
Valedictorian Lauren Von Berg, who will attend Princeton University in the fall, made New Jersey her home after moving to Denville from Utah. She spoke about her nervousness about starting at a new school for her freshman year of high school.
"Events or situations that you first see as a negative can sometimes turn out to have a positive outcome, testing us, pushing us, and molding us into better people in the long run,” she said. “I experienced this observation first hand when I moved here from Utah five days before the start of freshman year." Morris Knolls Principal Ryan MacNaughton said the Class of 2016 is special to him because it’s the first class to graduate since he got the job. "Values really do matter,” MacNaughton said. “The values you have been taught, the struggles you have survived, the diploma you are about to receive, have prepared you to compete with anybody, anywhere."
He told the graduates that they are "the future leaders of tomorrow,” adding, “You have the chance to be doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants, engineers, social workers, soldiers, journalists, entrepreneurs, teachers and more. Your family, your education and your values have prepared you for this challenge."
As the names of the graduates were read to the cheers of family, friends, staff members and teachers, the smiles on the graduates’ faces seemed never-ending.
Said Class of 2016 speaker Brett Izsa: "Today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away. What's important to remember on this sentimental day, is that although today marks the end of your high school career, it is just the beginning of the great adventure we call life."