After graduating from Hoboken High School this past Wednesday, the 104 members of the Class of 2014 filled the streets with such boisterous celebration that police officers arrived to direct traffic. The festival mood was a bittersweet complement to the atmosphere of gratitude and obligation struck during the preceding commencement ceremony at John F. Kennedy Stadium.
“Take a minute to appreciate this moment,” said valedictorian Leslie Markevitch in her speech to the class. “All too often we forget that we are alive…We are often too busy living for the next moment to live in this moment and appreciate what we have now.”
Markevitch told the story of being in a car crash caused by a drunk driver during the fall of her freshman year at Hoboken High School. “I realized how fortunate we were to survive that crash,” she said. “My high school career had just begun, and looking back, I realized how many important moments I would have missed if had never I never walked away from that car wreck.”
That near-miss led Markevitch to focus her attention on doing what is right instead of what is easy. “If there is one thing I have learned over the past four years,” said Markevitch, “it is that the results of doing what is right earn more satisfaction.”
She added, “We put in that extra hour of practice before the competition, set aside our differences to work with a teammate, stayed up late working, and faced our obstacles with our heads held high. These sacrifices have resulted in championships and awards won.”
For Hoboken High School, those awards include consecutive state championships for the football team, an “excellent” ranking for the student literary magazine Create from the National Council of Teachers of English, and numerous individual awards for performance and design at the New Jersey State Thespians Festival.
Salutatorian Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks echoed Markevitch’s message of appreciation and contemplation. In lieu of giving advice as a 17-year-old who “doesn’t yet know what her dreams are,” Yoon-Hendricks asked her classmates to express their gratitude to those who have helped them over the past four years.
“Say thank you frequently and freely and with all the meaning and sincerity that those two words deserve,” said Yoon-Hendricks. “Don’t just say thank you in an Instagram post as you Pic Stitch photos from today and comment your thanks with the hashtag #grateful.”
“Thank everyone who has helped you get here,” said Yoon-Hendricks, “whether it was your sister or guidance counselor or cousin or art teacher, because this world is a really hard place as it stands and being grateful and appreciative can only do wonders.”
Principal Robin Piccapietra said the speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian were emblematic of the Class of 2014’s warmth and kindness. She said this year’s seniors taught her to appreciate what one has in front of them. With such a small class, said Piccapietra, “you get to know them all well.”
Piccapietra called the 2014 class a “brilliant group of kids.” 91 graduating seniors plan to continue on to college or vocational school in the fall. Of those, nearly three fourths will remain in New Jersey, with 32 seniors attending nearby schools in Hudson County like New Jersey City University and Hudson County Community College. For one student, Ashley Borges, the next stage in life lies a mere six blocks east along Eighth Street at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Outside of New Jersey, Hoboken High grads will be heading to institutions including Bucknell University, Drexel University, Iona College, Florida International University, the University of New Haven, and Cal State Fullerton.