WESTFIELD, NJ — Cloudy weather gave way to blue skies just in time to shine on Westfield High School’s Class of 2017, which graduated Friday afternoon in a ceremony held at Kehler Stadium.

Four-hundred-twenty-eight students were awarded diplomas. The distinguished group included 240 receipts of the President’s Education Award, 153 National Honor Society members, nine students with perfect 4.0 averages, four future military servicemen and two National Merit Scholarship awardees. 

“You are a Blue Devil, meaning you learned to do the hard stuff in a day and the impossible stuff in a week,” said WHS Principal Derrick Nelson, who presided over the ceremony and addressed the graduating class. “I’m gonna miss you all.” 

Sign Up for E-News

Opening the ceremonial addresses, Senior Class President Carl Mazzara spoke on some misperceptions about the next generation. 

“As I understand, we are the last of the millennials to graduate high school. We are overly associated to self-care, too attached to our social media and we need constant praise and affirmation from our parents. Am I doing okay mom?” joked Mazzara. “As we may love our social media, we are first and foremost ambitious, determined, hard-working, tech savvy graduates.” 

Student Government Association President Alexandra Jackman followed with a message about how success can mean different things to different graduates. 

“Maybe successful for you is going to college next year. Maybe it’s having the courage to say that college is not the next step for you right now. You cannot define your success by that of others around you,” said Jackman. “It’s interesting, because sometimes we do share successes. Like, today, we are all celebrating graduating high school. Whether you had an incredible experience, a not-so-good experience or anywhere in between, you have something to be proud of. And you were successful.” 

Roosevelt Intermediate Principal Stewart Carey, who is retiring Westfield Public Schools this summer after 48 years of service, battled through laryngitis to offer the keynote address. 

“I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you. I have enjoyed it immensely, and I feel proud to be leaving here today having spoken to a group of young people who have represented this town and school system well,” Carey said. “With a solid foundation now beneath you, you have the capacity to make the world a better place for mankind.”

In a powerful moment following the keynote address, Dr. Nelson asked all those in attendance who had been impacted in any way by Carey’s work to rise. 

Up next, Nelson introduced the five retiring WHS staff members, David Davis, Jason Grant, Patricia Marchiano, Maria Santilli and Lori Scicolone, to read out the names of the graduates. The honorary diploma of Ezra Kennedy, who died tragically last summer, was accepted by fellow graduate and close friend Christian Kelly. 

With the diplomas and roses handed out, there was only one last order of business. The final graduate called, Eli Zidel, possibly inspired by the wise words of Mazzara, snapped a selfie featuring the graduating class, and of course, a "photobombing" Nelson. 

Editor’s note: Email your Westfield High School graduation photos to jlieberman@tapinto.net and we’ll add them to this story!