LIVINGSTON, NJ — The 498 members of the Livingston High School (LHS) Class of 2018 celebrated their final day together on Thursday as they received their diplomas on the turf of their new Alma mater.
Hundreds of family members and friends applauded their graduates as green graduation caps flew over the field.
Speeches from Class of 2018 Valedictorian Catherine Yu, Co-salutatorians Amy Liu and Serena Zhao and senior class officer William Taylor encouraged the graduating class to appreciate their individuality, embrace change and face adversity head-on in the years to come.
“While today may mark an end, it also marks a beginning—and so does tomorrow and the next day and every other day after that,” said Taylor. “I encourage you all to make the most out of every single day…Today’s a day to remember the past, but it’s also a day to look toward the future and all it holds. As we begin our next climb, I know that we will all go on to do incredible things and I can’t wait to hear about all of them at our 10-year reunion.”
Yu is heading to Princeton in the fall to study math and be an active member on the dance team while also participating in community service projects. Her message to her classmates was that there will always be uncertainties in life, and that “it’s okay to not know what’s coming at you in just a few more months and especially not in a few more years.”
“It may be weird and certainly ironic to hear a mathematician tell you that uncertainties do not correspond to the end of the world,” said Yu. “But if anything, I’ve learned from high school that random decisions can lead to great outcomes. We have people who decided to create a new club without knowing if others would actually join, people who decided to try out for a sport and found out they had lots of potential or that they were a bit lacking (like me); and people who applied to that one college, unsure how their numbers would add up—and got accepted.
“Stressing about uncertainty does not make you better prepared, but ignoring uncertainty is not effective either. Rather, learning how to deal with uncertainties is the key to growth and success.”
Yu told her classmates that it is “okay to be uncertain when you’re only 18 years old,” even if others “expect you to know what you’re going to do for the next 50 years of your life.” She expressed her confidence that her class “is going to do amazing things in the future.”
“We’ll thrive in our new homes away from home,” she said. “We are assertive, ambitious and active, and we are ready to take on the world.”
Liu and Zhao are heading to Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvia, respectively.
Liu, who was new to Livingston as a freshman, said that “high school has truly been an unforgettable experience,” during which she and the many friends she made along the way “matured into adulthood and uncovered truths about [themselves].”
“Walking in through these doors as an outsider who had just moved to Livingston, LHS has enabled me to view the world, including myself, through a different lens,” said Liu, who plans to study bio-medical engineering next year. “And now, as a proud Lancer, it feels absolutely surreal to stand before you today to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2018…I wouldn’t trade the friends and memories I have made here for the world.”
One lesson Liu said she would take away from LHS is “to explore but also not to forget one’s origins.”
“We will walk out these doors not as different people, but as cultured young adults who are coming closer and closer to truly understanding ourselves and those around us,” said Liu. “I may be second in the class ranking, but the Class of 2018 will always remain first in my heart.”
Zhao is heading to UPenn with an open mind, eager to discover what she was to do for the rest of her life. As she followed Liu at the podium, Zhao stated that she “entered high school with the pessimist mindset” and “saw graduation as [her] exit ticket to finally escape the iron chains of high school.” But as she stood on the day to receive her diploma, she said, “I cannot help but disagree with 14-year-old Serena.”
“As we have become masters of LHS, we have become confident young adults along the way,” said Zhao. “We have learned not just how to survive high school, but how to thrive… And now, as we stand before another unknown path, I hope we can look into the future a bit more optimistically than eighth-grade Serena did. I hope we remember that the fears we had four years ago are now tribulations that we have conquered, that we mastered high school even though it once seemed quite daunting.
“I’ve realized that even though it may seem scary at first, after you get used to it, sliding down the hill is always more fun than hiking back up…Class of 2018, our lives are only going to go downhill from here, but it’s going to be one extraordinary ride.”
Prior to sending their students off into the world, faculty members surprised the Class of 2018 with a song, telling them "I want you to have it all." See their performance below: