WAYNE, NJ – Overcast skies loomed above the two football fields of Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley where the graduating class of 2020 had their final high school ceremony and celebrated the end to a difficult year, but the beginning of a bright future.
Each graduation ceremony was held simultaneously with mirrored programming. On the maroon and white trimmed football field at Wayne Hills, Principal Mike Rewick was the master of ceremonies, while across town Principal of Wayne Valley Kenneth Palczewski held the honors on their blue and white trimmed field.
To the melody and music of Pomp and Circumstance the two graduating classes paraded in their maroon or blue gowns with matching caps onto the field to sit in chairs spaced six feet apart; all wearing masks. In attendance were a little more than half of the graduating class of each school, a handful of teachers and staff, and in the periphery a dozen or so parents who stood outside the fence to witness their child graduate live.
“As your principal it is an honor to share in your pride and accomplishments this morning,” said Rewick to the Hills seniors. “I want to offer my condolences to you for anyone who may have lost a friend, or a family member in the last few months.”
Rewick mentioned the loss of Director of Nursing for Wayne Public Schools, Suzane Koransky, who passed away last month due to complications of COVID-19. In her honor, the ‘diplomas’ handed out to all the students were wrapped in a purple ribbon, which was Koransky’s favorite color, and a tribute to her memory.
The theme of Rewick’s speech was moving away from “What we missed out on” to “What did we gain.” He mentioned patience, perseverance and unity.
It was Executive Student Council President Kevin Feeney of Wayne Valley who gave the opening remarks for his class and his theme was overcoming obstacles. He began with a quote from Winston Churchill: “If you are going through Hell; keep going.” Feeney continued with: “There is no denying that the last few months have been hell. We are all here today because we have been strong enough to overcome the obstacles that school and life has thrown at us.”
Each school’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian addressed their graduating classes speaking of accomplishment and strength. Following this, were special speeches given by teachers selected by each class to give closing remarks. At Hills it was English Teacher Scott Summers who used the analogy of his dogs to talk about standing up for and with each other no matter the difficulties in life. At Valley it was Government Teacher Dennis Carroll who explained that we all get the government we deserve, then laid out ideals that each student should have to make sure their government serve them and not the other way around.
Each student’s name was read aloud and one-by-one they came up to the stage to receive their diplomas from their principal and pose for one last official school photo. On either side of the stage at Hills was Superintendent of Wayne Schools Dr. Mark Toback and Board of Education member Stacey Scher. At Valley it was Assistant Superintendent of Wayne Schools Donna Reichman and Board of Ed President Cathy Kazan in attendance.
Tassles were moved from one side of their caps to the other signifying that these students were high school students no longer; they had officially graduated. On the Hills football field, a few caps were thrown into the air, but at Valley there were none. The principals congratulated their respective classes and the ceremonies ended much like the school year did, quietly and reverently.
Because no parents were allowed to attend, the applause during these events was much quieter that would be expected; the ceremonies more subdued. The graduating classes in the past were surrounded by close to a thousand spectators ringing the field and crowding the bleachers; families shouting their joy when their child was called.
With safety rules in place, set by the state of New Jersey, families could not attend, and the joyful shouting was not there. It made these ceremonies different.
They were different and they were historic. These graduations will always be known as unique and will be remembered far beyond any other, where each one in the past looked much like all the others before it.
This class of 2020 will always hold a special place in history and will never be forgotten.