WEST ORANGE, NJ – The 278 members of the eighth-grade class at Roosevelt Middle School graduated at West Orange High School last week amid pomp, circumstance and parents’ tears.

Principal Lionel Hush filled the auditorium with laughter as he recounted the past two years for family and friends, who nodded in agreement.

“I can imagine that to you it feels like just yesterday they were still cute little elementary school children eager to take on the world,” he said. “They were eager to help out around the house, wanting to help cut the grass, imitating any and everything you did. Thoughts of those times made you want to go have another child until you remembered that all those wonderful memories came to a screeching halt when adolescence set in and you had a difficult time recognizing the child that you brought into this world.”

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He described the students’ growth over two years by observing that they have had “experiences that will help define them and experiences you would just as soon forget.”

“They’ve done things that have made you proud and some things you just can’t understand,” he said. “They worry about things they shouldn’t and pay no attention to the things they should. By definition, they are teenagers. Teenagers that have made it through a very integral point in their lives, and prepare to begin their next journey. This middle school chapter is not easy…not easy for them and not easy for you.”

Musical performances of “Over the Rainbow” by the chorus led by teacher Patrick McLaughlin and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” directed by band teacher Roger Bryson, followed.

“This class is special,” said Assistant Principal Marc Lawrence as he called out the names of the graduates. “I’m going to miss all of you.”

West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore made an appearance to welcome the incoming freshmen and encourage them to get involved in clubs and activities, echoing Principal Hush and his admonishment to his graduates.

“We all need people in our lives who raise our standards and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves,” he said. “Take full advantage of the opportunities ahead of you and enjoy your experiences, but always keep your goals in mind and never let anything or anybody (including yourself) stand in the way of accomplishing what you see as success.”

Moore also advised the incoming freshmen to pick their friends wisely, and to “go out and become the best version of you possible.”

“I look forward to the success stories you are to become,” he said. “I wish you well and all the best as your journey continues.”

To see all the photos from the Roosevelt Middle School Graduation on June 20, go here.