MONTVILLE, NJ – The 323 student Class of 2015 graduated from Montville Township High School on Tuesday, June 23.

The graduation ceremony took place in the gymnasium of the high school. The decision to move the ceremony inside was made late in the afternoon on Tuesday due to the threat of severe thunderstorms.

The ceremony commenced with a welcome address from Montville Township High School Principal Douglas Sanford who described his special connection with the Class of 2015.

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“This class is a very special one to me personally,” said Sanford. “It was this class, the Class of 2015, that entered Montville Township High School on the same day that I entered this school. We, myself included, began as freshman and became Mustangs in the fall of 2011.”

Sanford was followed at the podium by Class President Genevieve Lake and Student Activities Council President Jay Sirot.

Lake’s address, which began with a selfie taken in front of the podium and looking out at the Class of 2015, included quotes from pop culture figures such as High School Musical’s Troy Bolton and rapper Wiz Khalifa, as well as advice and praise for her classmates.

The highlight of Lake’s speech was when she asked each student in the audience to look under their seats, where all 323 members of the Class of 2015 found hand written notes from Lake with her comments on how they impacted her at MTHS.

“Not a single person in this class has impacted my life,” said Lake. “Every single person in this class has impacted my life.”

Sirot, who advanced to the final rounds of the National Speech and Debate Tournament in June, began his address by acknowledging the difficulty of writing this particular speech.

“I’ve done speech and debate nearly every day of my life, but thinking about what to say tonight, I didn’t really know where to start,” said Sirot.

Sirot then advised his classmates to “live in the now” saying, “The point of prom was not prom weekend, the point of high school was not just getting a diploma tonight,” and finished by thanking every teacher and all family members who have helped the Class of 2015.

Salutatorian Jessica Zhang, like Lake, expressed her bond with fellow classmates, saying, “I feel incredibly connected to you all, Class of 2015.”

Zhang also described her uncertainty for what she would ultimately like to do with her future.

“I have no idea what I want to do with my life,” said Zhang. She then described her current life goals, which include becoming an artist, a scientist, a lawyer, “the first female president, sorry Hillary” or a mermaid.

“Thank you for the memories and the good times and the moments that I will remember for the rest of my life,” concluded Zhang, thanking her classmates once again for their impact on her time at MTHS.

The final student address was given by Valedictorian Asrita Vattikonda.

Vattikonda said she had three groups of people to thank that night, her family and parents, her teachers, and her classmates. She ended her speech by quoting Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Superintendent Paul Fried and Board of Education President Karen Cortellino also gave the Class of 2015 farewell advice before Principal Sanford presented the student diplomas.

The ceremony was Dr. Fried’s last graduation in Montville Township as he resigned his position in the District at the end of June because of the cap on superintendent salaries in New Jersey.

Fried had a large request to ask of the Class of 2015.

“I want you to save the world,” Fried said.

Fried said that using their imagination, the Class of 2015 could, and should, save the world, which he said is facing some serious problems right now.

Cortellino shared some insight and advice for the graduates, who she acknowledged face great uncertainties in the months to come.

“Personally I don’t like change,” said Cortellino. “But as life has it, change has found me many times.”

Cortellino then advised, “Own the change, shape it, control it, and it will transform you.”

The graduation ceremony also featured addresses by the advisors to the Class of 2015, Janet D’Innocenzio and Michael Micucci, as well as performances by the MTHS chorus and orchestra, before students reunited with their families.

“It is a special day,” said parents Jill and Larry Wolfson, whose son, Adam, was the Treasurer for the Class of 2015.

“We are proud to be parents of an MTHS grad for the third time. We think the school is spectacular and has done a wonderful job preparing the students.”