SPARTA, NJ – Cassels Field was the site of the 2017 Sparta High School graduation. The class of 276 graduates processed in navy and Columbia blue cap and gowns to Pomp and Circumstance, played by Sparat High School students.

The scene “was the stuff that post cards should be made of,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi said.

Class President Andrew Lopuch welcomed everyone.  He recounted the lessons learned such as how to study and research and the numerous times the senior class got rowdy at football, basketball, wrestling and soccer games.  Lopuch ended with “be phenomenal or be forgotten.”

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The only glitch to the evening came when the Salutatorian Jose Joaquin Talon came forward to give his speech.  Instead of reading the speech he had submitted to the principal for approval, he pulled an alternate speech from his pocket.  Administrators did not allow him to read his alternate speech so Talon half-heartedly read the approved text.

With dignity restored to the evening, the Honors Choir sang “You are the New Day.”  The Valedictorian was up next.

Benjamin Giugliano spoke to his classmates about his older brother, running shoes and a piece of wood.  Beginning with these three seemingly unrelated items, Giugliano tied them together at the end of his speech.  He related the story of reluctantly running with his older brother who used a stick to poke him to continue on.  “Sometimes it takes a push in the back to get you on the right path,” he said.

The class officers Lopuch, Vice President Sean Lowery, Secretary Jacqueline Hoffman and Treasurer Jordan Trzcinski presented Principal Janet Ferraro with a class gift of $2,500.  Ferraro said the funds would be used to help with the creation of the Athletic and Academic Hall of Fame.

Ferraro next presented the Citizenship and Scholarship awards.  Connor Dick was given the Citizenship award for his “cooperative leadership and unselfish service.”

The Scholarship award, representing someone who “is curious and dedicated to the pursuit of truth,” went to Giugliano.   

Rossi was next to the podium.  He accounted the many achievements in academics, scholarship money and athletics.   He encouraged the students “to never let setbacks stop you…Never let your defeats defeat you.” Rossi reminded them “there is always room to grow,” and admonished them to “thank as many people as possible over the summer who have helped you to get here.”

He concluded that he disagreed with many who have said they will be the first generation not to do as well as the previous.  “I disagree.  You possess four necessary characteristics; loyalty, honesty, determination and work ethic.”  Those four qualities he said would allow them to be successful.

Sparta Board of Education President Kelly McEvoy spoke to the graduates of anchors, telling them they can give you a sense of where you have come from and to remember the values that have brought them this far.

After the presentation of the diplomas the Honors Choir rose once again to sing the Alma Mater.  Ferraro closed the ceremony, speaking to the graduates of service.  As a demonstration of the commitment the class of 2017 has shown to service she asked them to rise as she went through a list of volunteering activities.  She asked, “If you have ever…”  volunteered for Tilly’s Kids, Pass it Along, Sparta Education Foundation events, food drives, Habitat for Humanity, supported fellow students at a game, program or concert, knitted for homeless, helped at your house of worship, Eagle or Gold award and after she had finished the list nearly every student was standing. 

After they sat Ferraro next called out the names of student who have committed to military service, asking them to stand.

Air Force and Air Force ROTC Scholarship programs: Rexford Anderson, Thiago Santos

Army and Army ROTC Scholarship programs: Jeremy Dericks, William Maloney, Carrie Middleton

Marine Corps and Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship programs: Austin Bramley, Jason Rotondi,Spencer Winberry.

Navy: Ethan Tweed.

“Be the generation that gives without wanting something in return,” Ferraro said. “Give but don’t spill.”

They recessed to Alleluia Laudamus Te again performed by Sparta High School musicians.

Look for additional photos in an upcoming article.