SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Over the past three days, Facebook and Instagram feeds have been filled with the smiles of proud graduates within the Spotswood School District. From fifth graders at the Appleby Elementary School to eighth graders at the Memorial Middle School to the class of 2017 at Spotswood High School, students embraced their milestones proudly as they stood poised to take on the next chapter in their educational ladder.
Memorial Middle School valedictorian Chloe Donelan and Spotswood High School valedictorian Andrew Faulkenberry both delivered inspiring speeches to their classes at their graduation ceremonies.
"Here's my message for you," Interim Superintendent Dr. Anthony Vaz said to Miss Tempera's and Ms. David's classes of fifth graders. "You're top guns in this school because you're fifth graders. Next year, you're going to be sixth graders. You're not going to be top guns, but that doesn't mean you can't star. Do what you did here at Appleby. Get involved. There's a lot more to do because you're older. Do the best you can do and you will succeed."
Those words can certainly apply as well to the incoming class of ninth graders at Spotswood High School to the graduates that will now be freshmen in college or beginning the next facet of their life. A different school, program of study or a new job is another opportunity to grow and be challenged.
"Having good character is really important," Appleby Principal Karen Boyle said to her graduating students. "Believe it or not, character is more important than intellect. Character defines your essence. Character defines you. I challenge you to make a point to display good character strengths."
Boyle went on to describe the vital traits of a strong character including kindness, compassion, willpower, honesty, generosity, self-control, curiosity and optimism. She ended with a poignant quote from author and political activist, Helen Keller, who was also blind and deaf. "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much" Keller once said during a lecture.
It's the together that Faulkenberry will miss most about being a Charger.
"In a word, memorable," Faulkenberry said when asked to describe his time at SHS. "It's going to be hard to leave all of the friends and teachers I've spent the last four years getting to know, but I'm so glad I have the memories to cherish."
Faulkenberry will take those lessons, memories and milestones with him as he heads to Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts.
However, the aspiring musician and composer is excited about writing the open chapter before him.
"Maturing, both as a student and a person," Faulkenberry said about his next venture. " I'm looking forward to be able to study specifically in music composition with the staff at Mason Gross and improve my craft and also to learn a sense of independence that I feel I'm ready for."
All of the graduates from the youngest to the class of 2017 are ready to make that step with their proud parents right behind them as always; ready to give as much or as little guidance as needed, but always there for words of encouragement, a hug and of course, that milestone photograph to post.
Best of luck to all the graduates as they continue to learn, grow and succeed.
It was basketball great Michael Jordan who said, "You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them."