Editor's Note: The correct name of the venue is the Richard J. Codey Arena.
MAPLEWOOD, NJ – For the past four years, students in Columbia High School’s graduating class of 2019 shared classes and played sports together.
They’ve played together in band and they’ve shared memories and experiences together.
As they graduated high school on Tuesday night, the students cried, smiled and hugged their classmates and teachers as they said their good-byes. Some of the students said they were sad to leave but others said they are excited to see what their peers do in the real world in the future.
“It’s so bittersweet to be here,” said Columbia High School Class of 2019 senior Kaitlyn Yourkoski. “Thank you to all my family, friends and teachers.
“I know everyone is going to be successful. I’m excited to see what everyone will do.”
Yourkoski was one of 456 students who graduated on Tuesday evening. Students filed into Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange on that night for the School District of South Orange and Maplewood’s 132nd Commencement Exercises, wearing red gowns and black caps with a logo or initials on top, representing the colleges they’ll attend in the fall.
“Please do not forget all of those who have helped you, have encouraged you, disciplined you, but most of all, loved you,” said Columbia High School Principal Dr. Kalisha Morgan during Tuesday night’s graduation ceremony.
Morgan spoke about the importance of being kind and compassionate to others during her speech and encouraged the graduating seniors to give to a cause they feel passionate about or to help someone they know.
Other speakers included Darius Thomas, president of the Columbia High School Student Council; Zachary Singer, president of the Class of 2019; Dr. Gayle Carrick, interim superintendent of schools for the South Orange Maplewood School District; and Annmarie Maini, president of the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education.
Graduating senior Kailyn Bailey sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Peter Bauer conducted the Columbia High School Graduation Ensemble for the Procession and members of the Columbia High School Administration introduced the students and gave out the diplomas. Board of Education members assisted with handing out the diplomas.
“We made it,” said Columbia High School Class of 2019 President Zachary Singer. “We’re finally graduating. As individuals, we have done some great things. Together, we have done even better.”
Singer spoke about notable current events that occurred during the Class of 2019’s time in high school including the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump and the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Columbia High School Student Council President Darius Thomas and some of the faculty speakers talked about moving forward and encouraged students to go out into the world to find themselves.
“Each graduate here can bring so much to the world that awaits them,” said Columbia High School Interim Superintendent Dr. Gayle Carrick. “Where will you walk? Who will you encounter? How will you see our world? What impact will you make on it?
“The time has now come for you to take your place. But always remember where you came from,” Carrick said.