PLAINFIELD, NJ — Plainfield Public High School graduates were at home listening to presenters as their graduation ceremonies got on their way virtually. The students listened to speakers and received their diploma virtually as their names were read and a copy of their diploma appeared on a screen.

Plainfield High School Principal Dion Roach as well as Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies Principal Dr. Angela Bento apologized to the students for the circumstances that lead to this non-traditional celebration.

Roach said he would have liked for this graduation to have been outdoors, on a warm weather day at Hub Stine, with the sun shining and the students surrounded by their families with hugs and handshakes. But this was not the case, “I’m truly sorry by the way your senior year was impacted by the COVID-19 virus. But here we are. Therefore, in keeping with my promise to do no harm, graduation is being held virtually.”

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Link to photos https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ECDfI6mtYNXemwHkMobuK5mFRzD19WtK

Dr. Bento reminisced about what could have been, “I bet you never imagined ending your senior year like this in quarantine. You have missed your prom, a physical graduation and many other activities that make up what senior is all about. I am so truly sorry you did not get to experience the traditional experience of your senior year. I also believe that this experience will make you stronger and more determined to succeed in whatever you put your mind to.”

The presentations were videotaped earlier with students participating in the pledge of allegiance, presentation of the colors, the national anthem, the recessional hymn and the alma mater days before and away from crowds.

Valedictorians Brianna L. Taylor, (PHS), and Kamani Jones (PAAAS) both gave their speeches in pre-recorded videos. Both students were presented earlier with a New Jersey Legislative Commendation by Assemblywoman Linda Carter.

A special tribute to the late Kayla D. aka “KK” Spooner who would have graduated today was presented by Coach Carol Taffaro, who taught Kayla in the Allied Medical Program at Plainfield High School. Kayla was active in school and in the community, she had dreams of becoming a nurse when she passed away in 2017. Her parents Keisha Petterway and father Alfi Spooner will be presented with her high school degree posthumously by Principal Roach.

Plainfield Board President Cameron E. Cox was keynote speaker at the PAAAS graduation, and he also spoke to Plainfield High School students. In his speech he mentioned how the interruption caused by COVID-19 has been for all but this class with be a standout for being resilient and overcoming this adversity.

“The Class of 2000 was considered the class of the new Millennium; the Class of 2020 will be the class stamped that has proven we can change the way we educate. Overnight society had to change the way we thought and conducted ourselves in order to utilize the technological benefits in ways your age group have been ingratiated since birth.” Cox added, “Society had to pivot to a virtual world that you were literally born into. Society now has had to exist in a digital space much reserved for convenience and pleasure now thrusted in a place of necessity and business.”

Dr. Diana Mitchell, Superintendent of Schools, said she was sorry this was not the traditional graduation the students had expected, especially as Plainfield High School celebrated it 150th Graduation, having had the distinction of being the first free public education system in the state of New Jersey. However, Dr. Mitchell said this class like no other has been through many experiences in their lifetimes and most recently with the Corona Virus pandemic that have equipped them with the resiliency, compassion and the determination to make things better for all. “You have exactly what it takes to make this world a better place so that everyone will work together towards respecting each other’s differences. This makes you unique and you add value to our world. Where ever you go and whatever you do always remember that “Cardinal Pride” instilled in you. There will never be a graduating class like yours. We love you, we support you and are proud of you. You will always be remembered as the Champion Class of 2020!”

Dr. Mitchell then accepted the Class of 2020 and declared the students graduates of Plainfield Public Schools.

Plainfield High School Keynote speaker Dr. Amir Whitaker, a civil rights lawyer and former student at PHS Class of 2002, who turned his life around after a brush with prison, spoke about his love for travel and for helping young people. He is also writer and has donated 200 of his books to the students.

The graduation ceremony for both schools is currently uploaded on the Plainfield Schools’ district website and available to parents and the community for viewing.

Attached are the names of the graduates from PHS and PAAAS.

For more information please email gmontealegre@plainfield.k12.nj.us.