“There is an ‘it’ factor, a charismatic energy that embodies this class,” said Christine Candela. “Their personalities combined certainly enhanced the school, and made our classrooms, teams, clubs, and hallways…gorgeous.”
Candela, one of two advisors to the Secaucus High School class of 2014, was speaking at the graduation ceremony on Friday, June 20 at the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center. Many school administrators also spoke, sharing Candela’s enthusiasm for the graduating class as well as providing advice for the departing students.
The 144 students in the Secaucus High School graduating class were awarded over $9 million in scholarships.
School Principal Robert “Dr. Bob” Berckes describes the class as “loving, kind, very respectful, every single one of them,” adding that they have a great sense of humor. “They lead by example and always volunteer to assist anyone and any cause.”
“It has been a long four years and a short four years,” said Class President Zack Fearon. “Long because of the all the drama and bad homework, the boring reading, early morning extra credit projects, and all the other little crap balls that hit us in high school. Short because of the lifelong friendships, the lasting memories, and the truly interesting and amazing things we learned between the occasional bits of drudgery.”
Fearon will attend Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military college and birthplace of the ROTC program, to study education. He will play football and hopes to become an officer in the Navy.
Dr. Bob called him “a respectable and honest young man with true leadership qualities.”
“I know my experience is limited, but every problem I’ve overcome has been because someone was there to help me,” said Fearon. “This is where our high school truly excels…The biggest thing I learned in high school is to lean on others when needed. There’s another, more important side to that idea as well. And it’s a piece of advice I’d like to give you as we get ready to cross this stage for the last time. Make sure you’re around when other people need someone to lean on. They’ll thank you for it.”
Salutatorian Molly Mancuso reminisced about the many challenges and achievements during the “four years… 1,460 days… 35,040 hours” the class spent in the high school. Mancuso, who attained a 4.28 grade point average, will attend Fairleigh Dickinson in the fall.
Valedictorian Naorin Hossain, whose GPA was 4.32, will attend Rutgers University. She spoke about the unity of the class, entering the school as strangers and coming together as a mutually supportive and cohesive group.
“High school has molded us into young adults who are now ready to take their first step into what adults like to call ‘the real world,’ ” she said. “This is our final moment of unity. Once these caps get thrown we’ll all be going on our separate ways but we’ll all be carrying the past four years with us.”
Music was provided throughout the ceremony by the high school band under the direction of Robert Fournier, and senior members of the Secaucus High School Chorus under Choral Director Lyle Leeson. Student Nicole Meli led the class in singing the school’s alma mater.
Many tears were shed during the ceremony, representing both happiness at graduating and sadness at leaving behind an important part of their lives.
“How did it get so late, so soon?” asked Allison Cunniff, the other half of the class advisor team nicknamed “C-squared” by the students. Referring to the class as a family, she said, “We have gone through a lot. We’ve seen school shootings, acts of terrorism, and we’ve seen natural disasters ravage our world, our country, and twice hit way too close to home. But these events have not broken our spirit. Because we’ve also seen the sense of community after each disaster. The Miracle on the Hudson. A Super Bowl on our home turf. And the dawn of Instagram, Snapchat. And twerking.”
“Follow the lead of Maya Angelou,” advised Dr. Bob to the class. “She said that in life people will forget what you say, what you do, but never forget how you make them feel. She also said you can tell a lot about a person by the way they deal with a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.”
Also sharing their experience, insights, advice, and congratulations to the class were Superintendent of Schools Robert Presuto and Board of Education President Gary Riebesell.
Ninety percent of the students will be attending four-year colleges or universities in the fall. Another 2 percent will be attending two-year colleges, with four percent going to trade schools, 2 percent to the military, and two percent into the workforce or undecided.
Schools they will be attending include Rutgers, Pennsylvania State, The College of New Jersey, the University of Delaware, the University of Connecticut, Fordham University, Georgia Tech, Northeastern University, Farleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Rider, Stockton, Stony Brook, and the State University of New York.
As a parting gift the senior class donated a fountain to place at the front of the Performing Arts Center.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.