WESTFIELD, NJ — Applause and celebration ensued Friday afternoon as 510 blue and white caps flew into the air, marking the graduation of the Westfield High School class of 2018.

Despite previous uncertainty as to where the ceremony would be held, graduates and their families were at Kehler Stadium to commemorate the occasion.  

Among the graduates were 299 receivers of the President’s Education Award, 202 National Honor Society inductees, 19 receivers of the National Merit Scholarship Program letter of Commendation, nine graduates receiving perfect 4.0 GPA’s and one college-sponsored National Merit Scholarship recipient.

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Senior Class President Abby Rothenberg was the first speaker, who advised the class of 2018 to take a step back while looking for a definition of success.

“It is so easy to get caught up in the need for quantifiable proof in our achievements,” Rothenberg said. “But I often find that the most triumphant moments in life are the ones you may not even realize, or reap the benefit of in the moment.”

Student Government President Robert Brown Jr. spoke next, voicing his misconception of what he thought high school would be like versus his experiences.

“I hope we all learned from being a student at WHS, high school was not like ‘High School Musical,’” joked Brown. “I also want to know where in the part where Troy takes the PARCC assessment, or why he’s never in class.”

WHS Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson delivered his speech after the choir sang “In My Life” by John Lennon. Nelson reminded graduates that they got to where they are with the help of others, and that they should make it their duty to help others, a principle he called “lift as you climb.”

“We have an obligation to our fellow human beings that if we are in a position to help someone, you do it,” Nelson said. “You lift as you climb. If you can do that, you have contributed more to society than anything your bank account can produce and, ultimately, contribute more to your own well-being.”

The commencement speaker, Jeff Owen, a 1968 WHS graduate and retired COO of the American Bankers Association, gave out a few nuggets of advice to the new graduates as well, encouraging them to take risks in their new futures.

“Look around you and say ‘why not’ rather than ‘I can never do that,’” Owen said. “You’re smart, you'll get it right most of the time, and if not, pick up and move on. Mistakes are okay unless you make the same ones every week. Too many of us sit back and play it safe and miss the chance to do things that can turn out to be very, very special for us.”

Up next, Nelson introduced Assistant Principal Margaret McFadden and librarian Julie Walsh, both who are retiring this year, to read the names of graduates. Beach balls were thrown about as graduates walked up the stage to shake Nelson’s hand and receive diplomas.

After all the graduates had walked on stage, Nelson bid his final farewell to the class of 2018.

“Congratulations graduates. I wish much happiness and success in your life after high school,” Nelson said.

Daniel Han is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.

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