RANDOLPH, NJ - Family, friends, teachers and loved ones gathered at John J. Bauer Memorial Stadium on Thursday, June 18 for the commencement exercise of Randolph High School’s Class of 2015. A misty fog rolled through the graduation ceremony, adding a dramatic background to the significant moment when one chapter closes, and another begins for the senior class.
(SEE Video Slide Show at end of story)
Just under four hundred of Randolph High School’s graduating seniors walked onto the field, filled with a mix of excitement and sadness. Valedictorian, Nina Cheng described the feeling as “Bittersweet” and said, “Time has really flown by.”
The accompanying processional music, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” was played by the symphonic band. The band also played the national anthem. The combined choir sang Randolph High School’s alma mater and a song called “The Poet Sings.”
Principal Deborah Iosso welcomed the Class of 2015 and the rest of the attendees to the commencement. She explained that the graduating seniors had invited 60 teachers district-wide to attend, and that those 60 teachers would line up to say goodbyes to the students as they left the field. For the invited teachers, as Mrs. Iosso put it, it would be an “Awesome moment to see how far [the students have] come.” Mrs. Iosso also pointed out that some members of Randolph High School’s original graduating Class of 1965 were in attendance as well.
Because of the unpredictable weather, the presentation of diplomas was moved from the end of the program to the beginning.
The names of students were read by Mr. Aaron Baker and Ms. Sandra Kessell. The Commencement program acknowledged Jack Timmerman and Calvin Verduga, two members of the Class of 2015 who we lost at the beginning of senior year.
Luke Dewlow, a graduating senior said he is “Finally glad to embark on the next part of [his] life.” As the names were read, students proudly walked to receive their diplomas. Even through the fog, it was clear each was excited about the journey ahead.
Mr. Thomas Driscoll, a Randolph High School teacher, said that for him, watching students graduate is “A feeling of pride.”
After each student had received his diploma, Iosso spoke, and read a list of “Firsts” that have occurred in the students’ lives, saying they all seem like a “Distant memory.” She reminded the class to “Remember the people who have made a mark on your lives.” Iosso emphasized the importance of the words “Randolph forever united,” and said, most importantly, to “Enjoy your journey.”
Mackenzie Lawton, graduating senior and president of student council, followed Iosso at the podium. Lawtown lightened the mood with laugh-worthy thoughts about thanking the teachers and faculty. “Thank you, Mr. Bowditch,” she said, “For letting us know we have ‘Some great colleges here today.’”
As her speech went on, Lawton gave a bit of advice to her fellow peers. She talked about how, though it is not always easy to embrace change, it must be done. “Once you do this,” Lawton stated, “You recognize what you are capable of accomplishing. It is amazing what life offers you sometimes. So, keep your eyes open and remember to offer your best self to the world.”
Jenna Bucien, Salutatorian, told the graduating class that they have power to make an impact on the world. Looking back on her experiences at Randolph High School she said, “If we can make our teachers proud, - to shed tears on our behalf - then certainly we have the ability to positively influence our world.”
Valedictorian Nina Cheng began her speech telling the audience about the countdown to graduation she had started at the beginning of the year. She said as the moment arrived she was “Excited and scared, nervous and humbled, and absolutely blessed and honored.” Cheng looked back on the different teachers she had and her experiences in each of their classes saying, “When I grow up I want to be just like them.” Then, she thanked her family and friends and well as the families and friends of the rest of the Class of 2015.
“And I believe we’ll always finish the line ‘first thing’s first:’ ‘I’m the realist,’” Cheng said making a few other references to the popular culture of her generation.
Cheng finished her speech talking about “the real world” and what her graduating class can do for it. “There’s so much that we can do, [if] only we care about [it],” she said to her class. “So my challenge to you is to leave this place bothered. Bothered enough to be fearless. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.”
Finally, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. David Browne asked Jon Zlock, the voice of Randolph Schools, to speak to the graduating class. Zlock noted significance of having a community like Randolph. “I’m pretty sure everyone in this stadium knows what it means, and how powerful a thing it is to come together as a community. To lean on one another. To lift up one another. To trust one another. To push one another. And, finally, to love one another.”
Mr. Zlock’s speech was a reminder to all that even after graduating Randolph High School, it will always be a place for students to come back to. He said that even though he is moving to Nashville, he is still with “His people,” his “Extended Randolph family,” and he hopes the Class of 2015 will go out into the world and “Find that piece of home,” as well.
After a year filled with great amounts of happiness, sadness and change, Mr. Zlock said that the Class of 2015 are “The very essence of what it means to be forever united.” Ending his speech, Mr. Zlock said that he and all who love the graduating seniors want them to “Live fiercely, ferociously and fearlessly.”
The final speech was delivered by senior class president, Elmer Rajah. Before starting his speech, Rajah pulled out a selfie stick, and invited Dr. Browne to join him in taking a selfie of himself and his entire Class of 2015. Rajah, who had been class president for the past 2 years, told his class to “Be true to yourselves and never forget where you come from.”
Rajah concluded by saying, “I wish you all nothing but the best in life because that is what you deserve. Live without pretending. Love without depending. Speak without offending. And success in your life will be never ending.”
Rajah then led the Class of 2015 in the cap toss. Hundreds of hats flew up into the foggy, misty air. The Randolph High School Class of 2015 had officially become graduates, with endless opportunities and the power to do anything.