WEST ORANGE, NJ — Roosevelt Middle School Principal Lionel Hush brought laughter and tears to the families of the 282 eighth-grade graduates in an early-evening commencement ceremony at West Orange High School (WOHS) last week.
Applause broke out as the curtains opened to present the students onstage. Graduating student and author/activist Marley Dias led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner.
Hush entertained the audience with a humorous commentary about how “cute little children” turn into teenagers.
“They’ve had experiences that will help define them and experiences you would just as soon forget,” he said. “They’ve done things that have made you proud and some things you just can’t understand. 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.”
Hush continued to exhort parents and praise students, stating that a parent’s job is not easy and that they do not “have the help of the neighborhood like it used to be.”
“With that being said, you can look on this stage and see just how fine of a job you have done,” he said. “Be proud, there are some amazing young men and women in this eighth-grade class and they will be missed dearly. Our job as educators can be taxing, tiring and frustrating at times. Seeing the strength, the kindness, the joy, and the genuine caring nature of so many of these children not only made it easy to go to work every day, it made me look forward to going to work.”
Hush reserved his closing comments for the graduating students, urging them as they move forward in their journeys to “remember that the people you surround yourself with will either raise or lower your standards.” He said those people “will either help you to become the best version of yourself or encourage you to become lesser versions of yourself.”
“No man or woman becomes great on their own, the people around them help to make them great,” said Hush. “We all need people in our lives who raise our standards and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves. 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. Pick your friends wisely, and go out and become the best version of you possible.”
Hush said he looks forward to their future success stories, and wished the graduates the best as their journeys continue.
The Roosevelt choir performed “Time after Time,” under the direction of Patrick McLaughlin, and Orchestra teacher Catherine Solino led students in “Honor and Glory" by Soon Hee Newbold.
Special recognition awards were presented as follows:
Betty Lou Hardy Award for Creative Writing
Jack Ramsay Award for Art
Carol Sadler Kindness of Heart Award
Mayor's Citizenship Award
Student to Watch Award
Award of Excellence
Assistant Principal Marc Lawrence read the names of the students as Hush shook hands with each graduate and staff assisted.
Students then departed the WOHS Auditorium as families gathered outside for photos with friends and families.
All photos were provided by Cynthia Cumming, communications coordinator for the West Orange school district.