MILLBURN, NJ - With yesterday's announcement that in-person graduation ceremonies will be allowed starting in July, the path is now clear for Millburn High School to potentially hold a ceremony, even if it will look wildly different from any other held in recent memory.
While nothing has been confirmed yet, and meetings are still ongoing, TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills spoke with Millburn High School Senior Class President Jamie Serruto and Vice President Charlie Baker, to get a sense of how the student body hopes to move forward with this decision.
Both Serruto and Baker had been publicly advocating in recent weeks for a return to graduation protocols and just this past weekend, both students had signed their names to an open letter addressed to Governor Phil Murphy requesting such a move.
For Serruto, the announcement of a timetable for in-person graduations is welcome, and one that he said was made possible by students all across the state, including in Millburn making their voices heard.
"I think it’s been a team effort, which has been spanning for the last several weeks," Serruto said. "And I think it all goes back to following the medical guidelines, flattening the curve and bringing us to this point where the decision and the announcement can be made.
"It’s not solely the point of ‘let’s allow in-person graduations,’ it’s about 'have we gotten to the point from a health perspective, that will allow us [to do this].' I think we should all be proud for helping to flatten the curve. I’m extremely proud, and we look forward to putting plans together.”
As for Baker, the opportunity to have graduation back on in any form is exceptionally welcome, and is something he said that students have been looking forward to as a way to salvage what remains of their senior years.
“I think it’s definitely very fulfilling," Baker said. "We’ve heard all of our classmates just be so sad that we’re not going to have graduation, we’re not going to have all of these things [… ] It’s kind of hard to hear that while we continuously work to try to make sure that we do have these things, and I think this is just a time where our efforts were really recognized, and they definitely helped in getting this to happen, getting us to have our graduation for our whole class."
Baker continued, "It’s just really nice to have that goal fulfilled, so we can show our constituents ‘hey, this is what we did for you guys.’”
Speaking about his cosigning on the letter from student leaders, Baker said that he felt as if it was important for him to take a position alongside Serruto and advocate for a safe return for graduation.
“It was really just a matter of something I felt strongly about," Baker said. "This was something I was more than happy to put my name on, to help craft, because it’s just something that I feel is so necessary […] As someone who has been part of the Millburn Schools for the last 13 years, to have this sort of rite of passage, that’s truly essential. So I just think that being able to work on something that made that happen, it just makes me feel very accomplished, and just very glad it was able to be done.”
Overall, as the student body leaders and administration work to find a way forward, Baker also expressed that he was excited to have graduation back on the table, and that he and other student leaders would be working for their class to make sure tht some ceremony would go forward.
“I think first and foremost, it’s just a great given to have," Baker said. "We’ve been having these zoom meetings with the principal and the class office and the senior celebration committee, which is in charge of a lot of senior events, just trying to figure out, ‘okay, here’s what we’re going to do for graduation if this is legal, here’s what we’ll do if this is legal.’"
He added, "We had to create so many contingency plans based on what could or could not happen. And just the ability to have these large-scale graduations and still in a safe way, it makes it a whole lot easier from the planning aspect of it, because we can actually move forward in a certain direction to make this recognition as normal as possible.”