WARREN, NJ - Under sunny blue skies, the Watchung Hills Class of 2017 walked across the stage and completed their high school careers during the 60th annual commencement ceremony at Tozier Field Thursday morning.
All School Council President Natalie Przybylski, Grade Level Council President Jordon Reynolds, Salutatorian Michelle Shui, and Valedictorian Joyce Zhou all addressed the crowd after the senior choral group sang the National Anthem.
Przybylski reflected on lessons she learned from favorite teachers over the last four years including her own AHa moment.... " you may not like someone's opinion but you still have to respect them."
"Today, we're all the same," Reynolds said. The same graduating class. The same diplomas. We're all Warriors filled with hope."
Shui said, "But above all else, remember that each and every one of you is important.... You don't have to do something huge like save the world to have an effect on people. Just by existing, you've already changed the course of history. With this in mind, do everything you can to be the best that you can be and use your passion to make the world a better place. Be awesome. Feel like you matter, because you do matter."
Zhou asked the Class to forget the question always asked of where do you see yourself in 10 years and instead answer the questions of where do you see yourself later today? Tomorrow? This summer? "How will you make sure that this summer is the one that counts."
Principal George Alexis delivered the commencement address. He said in part, "Sixty years ago, the idea of this little school on a hill was conceived to prepare students for a brighter future.... Your class has gone further over these last four years and helped transform our culture of learning, set new standards of excellence, and deepen our community's sense of empathy."
About the Class of 2017, Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett said I want you to remember the words of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame,"... finding your purpose isn't enough. The challenge for your generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose."
WHRHS Board of Education president Bob Morrison accepted the Class of 2017 and said:
As a member of the board of education this is my favorite day of the year. A day when we get to look out and see all of the graduating class assembled one final time before we move the tassels signifying the change from classmates to alumni.
As a member of this community today is even more meaningful as I see so many familiar faces in front of me. Faces of young men and women whom I have watched, coached, chauffeured, cheered and admired… in sports, music, the arts and sciences and academics… many of you whom I have known since kindergarten… and I even see my own son… hopefully without his inflatable palm tree.
Our job as a school has been to prepare you not for the world as it exists today… but to prepare you with the tools to confront, analyze and respond, proactively shape and ultimately succeed in a world we have yet to imagine. Your world will be different.
Twenty years from now our nation will look VERY different… Just as today it looks different from twenty years ago… before there was Amazon or Google, Tesla or Netflix. Most of the companies that will dominate our society 20 years from now are today names we do not know… in industries that have yet to be invented. Your world will be different. How different?
My grandfather had two jobs in one industry over a FIFTY year career. My father had three in one industry over the same period. I have had NINE jobs in four industries… including three of my own making over 35 years.
Today, it is estimated that you and your peers will have four jobs before the age of 32 and between 15 - 20 jobs throughout your career. Your world will be different.
Knowing this here are two pieces of advice I would like to share with you:
1. Relentlessly build your Network – Both of my children will tell you this is something I have constantly preached to them. Volunteer with professional societies and associations in your colleges or career pathways, introduce yourself to the thought leaders in your fields of study or occupations, correspond with new acquaintances, get to know your competitors, volunteer in your community, help out with a cause that is meaningful to you. This will help you build your own network and it is your network that will be the key to opening new personal and professional opportunities as you grow throughout your life.
2. Protect the most important asset you have… your reputation. As I lecture at colleges and universities throughout the year this is the one point I share with all of the students. Your resume might be responsible for your first job… maybe your second. After that… in a world where you will change jobs up to 20 times…it is ALL YOUR reputation. Are you a great person to work with? Are you dependable, honest, creative, a responsible team member, someone with integrity, someone that can be counted on to get the job done? Or not? As I mentioned I have had nine jobs in four industries and used my resume only once. Your reputation will be your biggest asset for unlocking your future opportunities.
Yes… your world will be different… and knowing many of you personally and the great work our faculty has done in preparing each of you…I am confident in your ability to not only succeed but to thrive in this NEW and BETTER and yes DIFFERENT world that each of you will help create.
To view the ceremony in its entirety go to