Stepping into the future
Union City High School graduates 862 students for 2018; 404 for WNY
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Jul 08, 2018 | 4901 views | 0 0 comments | 148 148 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Union City High School 2018 Valedictorian Paola Solano (pictured right) and Salutatorian Yaritza Aguilar (pictured left)
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Eight-hundred and sixty two students graduated from Union City High School on June 29, ready for the next phase in their lives. History was made with this year’s class, as Valedictorian Paola Solano became the first student in UCHS history to win the $250,000 Questbridge Scholarship. She will attend Brown University. Solano also earned the Waterford Valedictorian Award. The honor is in memory of Sal Edward Tieri, Jr., who perished in the 9/11 attacks. The 2018 class received $30 million in scholarships.

Officials also gave a posthumous graduation certificate to the mother of student Bryan Rodriguez, who perished in a car crash on JFK Blvd in 2016.

This year’s keynote speaker was Juan Mattos Jr., New Jersey’s current U.S. Marshal. He also has over 40 years of law enforcement experience, rising to Deputy Superintendent of Investigations for the N.J. State Police.

Salutatorian Yaritza Aguilar will attend Georgetown University.

“Regardless of where our paths take us, we shouldn’t forget our roots, and those who have helped us thrive and be where we are today,” Solano said, during her speech. She also invoked a famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to inspire her peers to never give up: “If you can’t fly, then run/If you can’t run, then walk/If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

“Here, we were treated as individuals,” said Aguilar, in her speech. “So as you move forward, you must never forget who you are when accomplishing your dreams.” She asked her colleagues to turn to a friend, take a moment, and say, ‘Thank you.’” She added that there will be challenging, adversarial times ahead, but they should “keep trying to be the best there is to be.”


“Regardless of where our paths take us, we shouldn’t forget our roots.” – Yaritza Aguilar


Aguilar took time to thank her math teachers and guidance counselor, among others.

In a message to students in the ceremony’s program, Principal Ryan Lewis had parting words. “Set your sights high, and soar proudly into your future, soaring eagles, confident in knowing that you are ready for the next adventure,” Lewis wrote. “Continue to achieve greatness and make us proud.”

West New York’s Memorial High School had 404 graduates for its 2018 class. The valedictorian is Elizabeth Gisell Aguirre, who will be attending the John Hopkins University for Engineering. The salutatorian is Dania Maria Espinal.

The state Department of Education also recently recognized the district as “high performing.”

Hannington Dia can be reached at

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