SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- Just like a single word can have multiple meanings, the South Plainfield High School Class of 2018 is much of the same. Principal Ronnie Spring was trying to think of adjectives to describe the now Tiger alums, and one day it, came to him: Character(s).
“If you looked up the word character in a dictionary, it has quite of few definitions, but the ones that stuck out and came to mind can be paraphrased as, ‘having qualities of honesty, courage, integrity, and a person that can be considered fun-loving, good natured, or accepted,” Spring said before the Class of 2018, members of the Board of Education, family members, and friends at Jost Field on a cloudy, breezy, and cool Friday evening. “Character truly describes the Class and each of you individually. Now, with the second definition, you guys are all just a bunch of characters. You’re funny and sometimes you push the envelope, but you always seem to know where the proverbial line is.
“...You all young men and women of strong character, and it is true that character that defines you all.”
After the SPHS Class of 2018 arrived to the tune of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”, many speakers gave speeches including Spring, Mayor Matthew Anesh, who once again took a group photo with the students, BOE President William Seesselberg, Superintendent Dr. Noreen Lishak, Student Council President Akachukwu Uba, National Honor Society President Jacqueline Battista, Salutatorian Ria Soni, Valedictorian Azreen Zaman, and Class President, Alejandro Garcia.
They all shared memories, words of wisdom, and cracked jokes, much to delight of everyone in attendance.
“Standing here before, I’ve come to realize, that 12 years of South Plainfield schooling has finally come to an end, said Uba, who is going to Cornell. “We’ve laughed together at prom, cried when are classmate passed away, and we grew together both physically and mentally. In this past four years, we’ve spend about 4, 320 hours together excluding sporting events, clubs, and extra help. We have become each other’s family. But now that graduation is happening, I can say I’m going to miss SPHS. Not necessarily the architecture, because let’s face it, the school was like a prison. Who’s bright idea was it to only have like five windows. I’m not going to miss the lunch either, because only God knows what’s really in the chicken patties. But what I am going to miss are the memories I made here and the people I made those memories with.”
Battista talked about being brave and to accept the challenges that are in the future instead of wanting to go in the past.
“Although my speech will never be as good as Troy Bolton’s in High School Musical 3, I just wanted to congratulate all my fellow graduates,” Battista said. “At some point during high school we all thought, when is this going to be over. Standing here today, I really can’t believe that it is the end. It’s surprisingly difficult to let go. Now we have to be brave and figure out how to be grown ups. As we enter into society, we will all enter through our own paths. We will figure out what we like to do, what we can excel out, and it will certainly be met with bumps in the road. We must embrace the possibilities that lie ahead of us instead of wishing we were six years old again, sheltered from the real world.”
Soni mentioned to act like the a bird and to not be afraid and to fly freely as she made an origami bird out of a piece of paper with each fold representing each year of high school and milestones. Soni gave an example of birds that had their feet wrapped in rope so they couldn’t fly. As they older and bigger, the rope couldn’t hold them back anymore, but they didn’t bother trying to fly because of past failures. Soni believes that every member of the class can escape and do as they please/
“Class of 2018, I know you are not like that bird,” Soni said. “Because of your experiences, you are the bird that isn’t held back by its past failures or the doubting words of others. You are the bird that is not afraid to venture out into the future an see the opportunities that await you. All I ask today is that everyone reach new heights and to fly freely.”
Zaman, who is headed to MIT, talked and shared laughs with her classmates about procrastination, studying for topics that weren’t on exams, and so forth.
“We made it through it all together,” Zaman said. “It’s the beautiful thing about high school. We all share the same many struggles and victories no matter who we are. That’s what I’m going to miss the most from my experience here, besides being the smartest person here. But they told me to not be too arrogant, so forget that last part. Congratulations to all graduates. Good luck and good night.”
Garcia made the analogy that every student in the class are pieces of a puzzle and now that puzzle is complete and it is a beautiful picture.
“To my classmates, this is it, the moment we’ve all talked about and the moment we worked so hard to get to,” he said. “Enjoy this moment. It is the last time that are high schoolers and the last time we are told to unplug are earbuds and to put our phones away. Take a moment to reflect on the memories and the friends that were made.
“When we started our journey, I feel like we were all scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And tonight, under this sky, we have put the last puzzle pieces in place. The Class of 2018 has completed a beautiful picture and we did it together.”
Sesselberg added anecdotes about former SPHS graduates, having pride, and guidances to keep in mind.
“Tiger pride continues after graduation, and soon, you’ll be responsible to continue that pride in your future endeavors,” Seeselberg said. “There are countless SPHS graduates that are bettering our world and keeping in touch when they can. It’s a role you’ve training for and you’re all ready for that challenge.
“You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘don’t quit your day job’. It’s a phrase of discouragement when you want to get out of your comfort zone in your career and try something new. I’d like to live life by a phrase I heard from a magician, ‘Don’t quit your day-dream’. In other words, do what you need to do, but make time for what you want to do.”
Lishak, who certified the class of graduates, shared life lessons as well.
“Remember, each day you will opportunities to do something great,” she said. “Just keep in mind, everything great is not always monumental. Small gestures lead to big accomplishments. Take the time to enjoy the moment and to live in the present. Savor your everyday accomplishments, because, over time, they all become wonderful life experiences and those experiences become fond memories just as this ceremony will be one day.
“Take the time to enjoy your family. You will in the very near future that your parents are smart, funny, and caring people and everything they did was all about doing what was best for you. Remember your brothers and sisters and your teachers, even those who gave you a hard time and gave you all that work. Always be kind to people. Everyone has a life story and take the time to listen to a few of them. They’re stories will help you understand how people think and maybe change the way you think. Also, be the person you want to meet in life. Give others respect and you’ll earn respect in return. Remember, each day is another opportunity to be your best. Be your best tomorrow and all the day after that. You can be the next great anything you want to be with hard work and dedication. You will make it because you are all ‘Tiger Strong’.”
After the tassels were moved over to the other side of their caps, the students then threw their caps in excitement in the air, signaling the end of a long, winding journey that was high school.
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