West Essex Valedictorian Reminds Graduates to Never Forget Home

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Distinguished Faculty, Family, Friends, and Class of 2014,
It is an honor to stand before all of you today, as the valedictorian of the Class of 2014. First, I would like to thank some very important people. Thank you to the Board of Education, Superintendent Longo, Principal Suda, Vice Principals Mr. DiLiberto and Ms. Hoebee, teachers, and Mrs. Grancagnolo, for the education and guidance you have granted me in these past four years. Thank you to my family, especially mom, dad and Camille, for your love, encouragement, support, and laughter. And thank you to my classmates, who, for these four years, have made high school an incredible experience, full of unforgettable moments.

Class of 2014, we have had some wonderful memories. I think the beauty of our experience at West Essex comes from the fact that we are such a close-knit community. The class of 2014 in particular, is special in its unity.

At the beginning of senior year, for example, we stood as a part of the humungous Red Nation at the West Essex versus Caldwell football game, where of course the Knights were victorious. I have never experienced so much school spirit in my life. Later in the season, we stood together in the rain as we came so very close to making it to MetLife Stadium our Senior Year, a heartbreak I think we all felt. When our inspiring friend, one of my best friends, and classmate Ali Hale stoically fought the battle against cancer, we showed our support by making a music video and T-shirts. And for the three days that it was rumored that we may not be able to graduate on our home turf, the Class of 2014 banded together ready to take a stand.

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The close-knit nature of West Essex has allowed me to make friendships that I know will last me a lifetime. I am reminded of one special friendship in particular as we get ready to move on. It was a rainy morning in second grade, and a few friends and I were on the playground. I swung on the monkey bars, and I slipped and fell in a big puddle, showing from an early age my strong athletic skills. I was pretty banged up and had to go to the nurse, and as a seven-year-old, it was a big deal. A friend silently walked with me to the Nurse’s Office, letting me cry. It seemed that my friend knew exactly what I needed at the moment.

Last year, I went to the Junior Prom with this same great friend, Gabe Angeles. And again, Gabe was by my side, this time posing for a million pictures, making sure my dress didn’t drag on the ground, and dancing like crazy with me. He was the perfect prom date, and has been the perfect friend for 13 years.

In the close-knit community of West Essex, we kept the friends we’ve had since we were five, and then made new friends from the three other towns as we moved on to middle school. We were able to have both “old” and “new” friendships.

As we move on to the next chapter in our lives, I’d like to share the words of my favorite rapper, Doctor Seuss. In one of his biggest hits, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” he says

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry.  Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.”

We will be moving on to bigger, brighter, and more beautiful things after graduation, but when we need a break from whatever that “opener” place may be, we can always return to West Essex, where we will be welcomed with open arms. 

Although I cannot say for certain what will happen in the future, I can say with confidence that the West Essex Class of 2014 will go far. The proof is in the amazing lives of the 269 people who sit before me. I graduate today with intellectuals, athletes, a recorded musician, dancers, actors, artists, those who will serve our country, and a cancer survivor, just to name a few. We are a talented and inspiring class, and we are sure to bring greatness unto this world. And whether it be the education, the laughs, the friendships, or the memories, that you value the most, bring a piece of West Essex with you, wherever the “places you’ll go” may be. Congratulations, West Essex Class of 2014.

Thank you.

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