SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- The South Plainfield High School Class of 2019 -- all 262 of them -- walked across Jost Field and received their diplomas during their graduation ceremony on Friday evening.
Early morning practice in the rain couldn’t hold these Tigers and by night, they were greeted with sunnier and warmer weather for their big occasion.
Before the graduates went through roll call, there plenty of speeches, including from town Mayor Matthew Anesh.
“Graduates, find your passion in life and pursue it with all of your strength and talents. Know that great opportunities lie ahead and your challenge will be to make most of them,” Anesh said. “Over the last 12 years, you’ve been building your foundation for your success. ...Last, but certainly not least, strike to be the nicest person you know. ...A former South Plainfield educator of mine simply once said, ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice’.
South Plainfield Board of Education Vice President Cassio talked about the great support each one of the students got from teachers, other staff members within the school, coaches, and of course, family. He also mentioned that they will make mistakes, but what you make of them is critical.
“You’re going to make mistakes. I will promise you that and that’s OK. Those mistakes don’t define you. What defines you is what you do with those mistakes,” Cassio said. “That’s the beauty of the experience. Remember, you have people that will pick you up. This is South Plainfield and that’s what we do. Don’t forget where you come from and the village of people who got you where you are today and all of the hard work.”
Principal Ronnie Spring talked about the class as a whole and how they’ve been through a lot.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education’. This class truly exemplifies that quote,” Spring said. “Over the last four years, this senior class has stepped up in every way. You’ve had so many successes and honors academically, in clubs, and in athletics. Most importantly, you set the tone. You exemplified what it means to be a part of this Tiger family.”
In Student Council President Maggy Mogollon’s speech, she talked about the growth of everyone in the class.
“Think of how far we’ve come both individually and as a class. As a freshman, high school was a whole new world,” Mogollon said. “What we didn’t know, is that at the end, we would all truly evolve into who we are meant to be. We made it. Each one of us has the ability to do big things. It’s now our job to step into the real world and make a change. Everyone of you is special. Everyone has their own path in life and now we get to take that path and find out where it leads us. ...Live your life to the fullest.”
National Honor Society President Ezinne Ibeku dazzled with her jokes about having no windows and more, but she also talked about the overall experience.
“There were happy moments that made us laugh and there were scary moments when we wondered if this big, bad world we were going to enter would accept us,” Ibeku said. “But you know, that’s high school. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. But, we’re finally out of here, and you know what, this tassel was worth the hassle. Congratulations Class of 2019.”
Salutatorian Lynda Farinella offered words of advance and encouragement.
“For my piece of advice, don’t forget the friends that made you feel important and special and those who called you out when they needed to. Don’t forget the foundation that has built you the past 17-18-19 years,” she said. “...Remember that you’ve all come so far. Whatever you do, I hope that you never give up. Never stop pushing to be the best you can be and work hard at the things that make you happy. You will always do well if you believe in yourself.”
Akaash Patel, the Valedictorian, said many witty jokes, but also talked about not needing an award or a panel of people and a plaque to define your worth and working hard.
“We’ve had plenty of good teachers along the way,” Patel said. One of the most important lessons they taught us is that if we put in the work and give our all, we can accomplish something.
Four-year Class President, Sarah Gwiazda, who also gave a speech at their eighth grade graduation, discussed the fact that all 262 members of the class have potential in anything they chose to do.
“Think about how much we can do,” Gwiazda said. “Each and every one of us has the potential to do great things. The time has come for us to go out in the real world and make it ours. Remember these things: Have an open mind, take risks, and embrace the differences in people. To paraphrase Michell Obama, ‘Success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square’. We’ve earned our Tiger stripes.”
And finally, Dr. Noreen Lishak the Superintendent, capped the evening off with an impactful speech of her own about the future.
“Life is full of ups and downs. There will be many challenges, but there will be many triumphs as well. Some days will seem effortless while others will have personal trials. Every day is a gift and each day provides an opportunity to be a better person than the day before,” Lishak said. “Always look for the good in others and show the good in yourself. Take time out and do things that make you happy Fulfill your dream. You may fall a few times, but get up and dust yourself off and take note of what knocked you down and keep moving.
“Don’t forget those who helped you along the way. Try to spend a little more time with your parents as they will always be your biggest fans. They have knowledge you don’t appreciate yet but one day you’ll realize they were right. Cherish your brothers and sisters as they were your first best friend.”