NEWARK, NJ - Columbia High School (CHS) Class of 2017, over 400 strong, was graduated in a Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, June 22, held at Essex Community College. The opening processional was led by Superintendent Dr. John Ramos, members of the South Orange Maplewood School District administration, members of the school board and staff, and followed by the graduating students dressed in crimson robes.

Samori Etienne, President of the Student Council, led the Salute to the Flag before speaking. "We are young and that gift gives us fresh vision to challenge authority because we are in the springtime of our life," said Etienne. 

Elizabeth Aaron,CHS principal, shared that graduation rehearsal is a "metaphor for life," in that everyone is part of something bigger, and can help those all around them.  Aaron urged the graduates to look "front, back, right and left, and get to know the people around you," and to "listen carefully, and always take the high road."

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"Over your four years at CHS you’ve listened, led, cared a lot – you’ve done so well that we’ll be looking to see what’s next. Congratulations!" Aaron added.

One theme throughout the speeches was that this year has been as hard one for the graduates. Chloe Holt Reiss, Senior Class President, said that while a lot of energy went into trying to make it perfect, it is never a perfect journey. 

Ramos congratulated the graduates and reminded them that commencement is just the beginning. Ramos emphasized that every student has unique gifts to contribute to the world, and are part of something bigger than they can imagine. "Be proud if you can’t wait to see what comes next, and go for it," said Ramos.

Elizabeth Baker, Board of Education President, said she hoped that the graduates would lead the way for the class of 2030. Baker concluded with citing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who spoke of the power of education and the need to take small steps which can lead to bigger victories.

The Class of 2017 was introduced and diplomas were conferred to each of the graduates, before the ceremony concluded with the recessional.

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