So last Wednesday night, when the Class of 2005 received their diplomas before a packed and enthusiastic audience in the auditorium, Olivieri had to endure yet another emotional night, but one he's come to appreciate and anticipate after nearly three decades.
"I spend a lot of time with many of them, so when they leave, it is always cause for mixed emotions," Olivieri said. "I got to know them so well and watched them grow from scared seventh graders into young adults. They get to realize that Dr. Olivieri is not the tough guy he seemed to be when they were in the seventh grade. I feel like some of them are like my own children; that's how close we've become."
It was a smaller class than usual, with only 53 students receiving their diplomas. But it was a very close-knit group, a contingent that did practically everything together.
"That is true; they were very much so a close group," Olivieri said. "There weren't any cliques. Even the new students who came in as seniors were quickly accepted. Commencement means a beginning and an end and that is so true with this graduating class."
During the ceremony, Olivieri walked around the stage and spoke a little bit about each graduate.
"I enjoy doing that," Olivieri said. "I know the kids enjoy it and the parents do. I wish I had more time to do more, but we're under time constraints."
Probably the biggest achievements that the Class of 2005 accomplished won't be felt for a while. Ninety-six percent of the class will head to college in the fall. Many of those received some sort of scholarship or financial aid. All totaled, the Class of 2005 received $2.1 million in grants and scholarships, which says a lot about the 53 graduates.
The valedictorian was Pari Shah, who will head to Stevens Institute of Technology in the fall.
"As we reflect over the last four years together, we have so many great memories," Shah said in her speech. "Although we were only a class of 53 students, we made a tremendous impact on everyone around us. It's important that we keep life's lessons we learned from our teachers, things that will forever affect us. Our education has not ended. We have so much to learn and we should strive to want to be the finest. We have the ability to create and do great things."
Shah then made a reference to New York in her closing comments.
"Our time together has been like the fast pace of New York City," Shah said. "We've sped along like the No. 2 train going downtown to Wall Street, but we've also had the time to take in the beauty and take a stroll through Central Park."
Alani Santana, who is headed to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, was the class salutatorian.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was on hand to present the Weehawken and You Civic Association scholarship, one of 14 different scholarships presented to graduates. The Weehawken and You awards went to Leticia Cortes and Megan Daly.
"Although this was a smaller class, this was a class that we all got to know pretty well," Turner said. "They participated in a lot of events outside of school together and there was a lot of talent in the class. They were a fun group. The whole group was just involved in a lot of things together. You don't see that often. They were a very active group and they're going to be missed."
Right before they were to receive their diplomas, the school's jazz band performed. With that, approximately 20 members of the graduating class, including the top two students Shah and Santana, took their places to perform one last time together. Although the joint jumped with some swing tunes, there was a sense of sadness. Even music director Steve Spinosa's voice cracked a little when he introduced his band for the last time.
After the ceremony was over, the graduates headed to Stevens Institute and the Canavan Arena for the Project Graduation celebration.
"They all had a great time at Project Graduation," said Turner, whose "Weehawken against Drugs and Alcohol" group helps to sponsor the event. "It was nice to have it so close by. Stevens was a great host. They had a great time and they came home safe and sound."
"It was good to have Project Graduation so close to home," Olivieri said. "We were also able to have about 20 teachers come and volunteer their time as chaperones. We had the mayor and other council members, board members. It was a nice experience for the kids."
On Friday morning, Olivieri was back in his office. Another school year was officially over.
"We're already started to plan for next year," Olivieri said. "I'm going to keep on going. I have no plans to retire. Where else could I go to have so much fun?"
For more on the valedictorian and salutatorian, see the paper's graduation section.