NEWARK, NJ - Columbia High School (CHS) Class of 2018, over 500 strong, was graduated in a Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, June 22, held at Essex Community College. 

The opening processional was led by Elizabeth Aaron, CHS Principal, Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficcara, members of the South Orange Maplewood School District administration, members of the school board and staff, followed by the graduating students dressed in crimson robes.

Ryan Sartori, President of the Student Council, addressed the crowd, sharing that the diversity in CHS and in the two towns makes the graduates ready to face the world.

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Aaron 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."

"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.

Toibat Ayankunbi, Senior Class President, said that throughout the year there were signs of greatness exhibited in various way, including students who skipped lunch to participate in study groups.  

"We came together making this an exceptional year with shared interests and common goals that will serve as a good beginning," said Ayankunbi.

Ficcara congratulated the graduates and reminded them that commencement is just the beginning. Ficcara said, “you’ve made choices to get here, and others to make that you don’t know yet. You’ll meet new people and begin a new journey in your life. The next phase of your life you will meet exciting and diverse people. Be mindful of what truly brings happiness. Don’t be followers and remember there will always be one more road, one more goal and seek challenges."

Elizabeth Baker, Board of Education President, told the class that to do right satisfies your soul, and encouraged the graduates "live your life in a way that you will matter...this is your life, your world. Make it better!”

The Class of 2018 was introduced and diplomas were conferred to each of the graduates, before the ceremony concluded with the recessional.