LIVINGSTON, NJ — Heritage Middle School held 22 small ceremonies to recognize 497 graduating students on June 23, accompanied by a virtual moving up-ceremony.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Block addressed the graduates, expressing how excited the staff and administrators at Livingston High School are to welcome them in the fall.

“I know you’re going to make a real difference there in the next four years, and I am going to be so happy to see you learn, create, contribute and grow,” said Block, who also acknowledged the many courses, clubs and other activities that will be open to them at LHS and encouraged the students to take advantage of those opportunities. “Make sure you get involved. Shape your high school experience into a great one.”

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Also during the ceremony, HMS Principal Shawn Kelly welcomed students from each team as well as HMS Student Council Co-Presidents Robert Trief and Jake Ferrans to speak about their time at HMS.

Ferrans acknowledged the many challenges of the 2019-2020 school year, which included not only the pandemic, but also a series of power outages early in the year at HMS, followed by a district-wide server hack.

“What is incredible about the plethora of challenging situations we have encountered is our ability to come together during times of great adversity and thrive,” he said. “Our teachers, the staff, the administrators, our superintendent, the Livingston community and we, the students, pushed forward and kept working to educate ourselves and support one another during these difficult times. That is something all of us will remember, and it is one of the reasons that this class—this graduating year—is special.”

Trief recognized the accomplishments of the student council this year, which included holding a Thanksgiving food drive, a Toys 4 Tots toy drive during the winter holidays and a school spirit T-shirt contest benefiting the HMS Class of 2020.

Kristen Ngai from Team 1 reflected on the last few years of middle school and expressed confidence in her fellow classmates’ preparedness as they “step into the next step of [their] life’s journey.” She and her sister, Renee Ngai, sang a song they composed in order to express gratitude toward their peers and teachers and to “sum of all [their] thoughts and feelings” about graduation.

Representing Team 2, Raquel Silva stated that although this wasn’t the school year many of them envisioned, it was one they would always remember. She also spoke about the many opportunities she and her classmates have had over the last three years to “make new friends, memories and get involved our school community.”

“Looking back on the past three years, so much has happened,” she said. “In those years, everyone has grown and learned more about themselves through their experiences…Middle school has definitely been a time of discovery. With classes being focused on one subject, we were able to learn what our strengths and weaknesses were. With more clubs and extracurricular activities to join, we were able to have fun and make new friends. And for those of us that didn’t know, we figured out what we loved to do.”

The Team 3 representative was Daisy Yao, who thanked all of the teachers, staff and administrators who worked hard to put the ceremony together and to the parents, guardians and family members who have supported the graduates along the way.

“Although we may not all know each other, there is something that we have in common: we’re all just like my black metal water bottle,” she said, holding up the water bottle she has carried with her throughout middle school and briefly explaining the stories behind each of its dents and scratches. “I’ve dented this thing so many times by now that the bottle isn’t even flat; but when I look at my water bottle, I see endurance, resilience and strength.

"We’re all just like this little guy. We have faced countless trials and tribulations throughout our middle school years; but every time, we have persevered…And now we’re here graduating—proof that we have overcome these obstacles.”

On behalf of Team 8, Andrea Zhang shared a lesson she learned at HMS, which is that “when you take a big leap at something” there is “inevitably going to be some point when you stumble and fall.” But when this occurs, “instead of standing up too early and hurting yourself more, you can wait for your scratches to heal [and] put a Band-Aid on your bruise [before] you get up—and that’s when you can begin taking a step in the right direction.”

Kelly along with several teachers and administrators shared messages of encouragement and congratulations during the ceremony, which also included a montage of photos from throughout the year and a special “coronavirus edition” performance from the eighth grade concert band.

The performance can be heard at minute 10:15 of the graduation ceremony, which can be viewed in its entirety BY CLICKING HERE.

CLICK HERE for photos and coverage of the Livingston High School graduation ceremony.