WESTFIELD, NJ – One graduate’s future is in the stars – literally.

Casey Cohen, 17, will be attending Johns Hopkins University where she plans to study astrophysics and creative writing. Cohen was among the approximately 450 students to graduate with the Westfield High School Class of 2019 on Friday.

Shortly after commencement ceremonies, Cohen said she is excited but also sad to be leaving Westfield High School.

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“It’s a whole mess of emotions,” she said. “I’m still kind of processing it.”

Over 1,000 people gathered at the National Guard Armory for the commencement ceremonies, which drew a standing-room-only audience. Due to wet field conditions, the commencement had been moved into the Armory, where family members snapped photos as the graduates accepted their diplomas, received praise and tossed their caps.

“Find what motivates you and what drives you,” said Chris Mattes, director of player development for the New England Patriots and Westfield alumni, speaking to the audience. “We all have something inside of us that drives us, whether in the classroom, jobs, sports, whatever it is.”

Afterward, graduate Jesse Katz, 18, hugged his father in the parking lot.

“It’s crazy. I feel like I was graduating fifth grade yesterday. Time flew,” said Katz, who hails from McKinley Elementary School and will be attending Tulane University, where he plans to study finance.

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Contrasting the festive tone was the knowledge that the seniors were moving on without Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson. Dr. Nelson had died April 8 at age 44 following complications from a bone marrow donation procedure.

“It’s super sad, his passing,” said Jackson O’Brien, the senior class president who heads to Bucknell University next year. “We’ll miss him a lot.”

Interim Westfield High School Principal James DeSarno kept his remarks brief.

“The class of 2019 has clearly left its mark on Westfield High School,” DeSarno said. “And we will look back on this class with pride and joy.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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