SOUTH PLAINFIELD -- One thing is clear about the Class of 2017 graduates of South Plainfield High, they are “the best class” to ever come out of the school.
Well, that’s what Valedictorian Jason Belanger said -- and apparently teachers and faculty -- have voiced as well.
Maybe the “selfie” Mayor Matthew Anesh took with his phone before he spoke proves that.
Inside the school’s auditorium Friday night, the 257 seniors came together as one for the last time and donned their once in a lifetime green gowns and different colored regalia. They moved their tassells to the left side, walked across the stage to cheers and flashing lights from cameras, received their diplomas, and tossed their caps signaling the end of a long, four year journey.
This class of young adults reached new heights throughout their scholastic careers.
And in his speech Principal Ronnie Spring was quick to bring up the perfect work in describing the Class of 2017: Passion.
“Your passion for learning has allowed you excel academically. Athletically, your passion has shined through on and off the field. Just this year with the leadership of the senior class, we’ve had three teams go to the state finals -- two of which became state champions. From a co-curricular standpoint, you took your passion and ran with it. Members of this class are founding members of nationally awarded winning clubs. You rocketed to amazing heights. Your passion to be the best shined through.
“It is because of this passion, you, the Class of 2017, will continue to be successful in all your future endeavours whether that is furthering your education, going into the workforce, or protecting us in the military, your passion will continue to guide you to greater success. Harriet Tubman once said, ‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’ And Class of 2017, I know you will do just that.”
Spring was just the first a long list of speakers on the evening. Anesh said a few words as did Board of Education member John Farinella, Student Council Co-Presidents James Joyner and Ashley Veliz, National Honor Society President Olivia O’Leary, Salutatorian Scott Riccardi, Belanger, and Class President Caleb Kuberiet.
Anesh gave advice about finding your passion and pursuing it and stating that “money isn’t everything”. He also mentioned to “embrace opportunities” and to find your strengths and weaknesses as a person. Anesh conclude with saying, “Be the nicest person you know.
“...A former South Plainfield educator of mine said, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”
Farinella talked plenty about the real heros such as the student’s parents and thanked them for making a difference and how they overcame challenges.
“You’ve handled every experience and have grown to be ready and to be qualified to graduate from high school,” Farinella said. “So let’s call it like it is. Your high school years were not defined by challenged, they were really defined by your opportunities. And so all of you met the expectations, you are now ready to leave SPHS. Proudly you are graduating tonight and you have learned lessons about what it takes to work hard and to succeed.”
And while he used plenty of jokes in his speech and described the fads in each of their four years of high school like the mobile game Pokemon GO in 2016, Kuberiet made sure to present some valuable life lessons as well. Kubriet discussed why you should love everyone equally and that you live life with your head up and not down looking at your phone.
“Life moves quickly,” he said. “As the hooky expert Ferris Bueller himself once said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you can miss it.’ Students, I (encourage) you to always absorb every second you are living. These tiny seconds can actually turn into lifetimes. If you’re at a Drake concert, we understand, but you don’t have Snapchat the entire thing.
“Live in the moment and not through your phone. We must cherish the special moments with friends, family, and loved ones who may not always be there and leave the digital and sometimes irrelevant world behind.”
After the roll call of graduates, the now military members, college freshmen, or workers were greeted with hugs, flowers, smiles, and balloons by those who meant everything to them in the hallways and parking lot before they broke from Project Graduation festivities at All Seasons Sports Academy in town.
But before he left the podium earlier in the night, two words of encouragement and praise could have replaced the number of the speeches and everyone would have been in and out instead of staying put for the two-and-a-half hour ceremony.
Belanger said it best with a smile: “Good job”.