On Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. in North Hudson Braddock Park, 550 students will sit on the precipice between the carefree days of youth and their entry into the adult world. Most anticipate the moment with great joy and hope. But some will greet it with sadness, as their high school days draw to a close.
“I’m still emotional; it’s crazy,” said valedictorian Nyasia Rivera last week. “I feel it crept up on me. The year had just begun, and then it’s over.”
Rivera knows it a road her life must take, but that does not lessen the severity of her rollercoaster emotions right now.
“Now I’m super sad about it,” she said. “It’s happy and sad at the same time. I’m happy that I’m graduating; sad that it’s over.”
Rivera said moving to the township as a child and attending high school in North Bergen did more than educate her; it molded the woman she is today.
“If I never did move here, I’d be a totally different person,” she said. “I’m happy I’m the person North Bergen changed me into.”
“Your senior year is your legacy.” – Stephanie Tejada
Rivera’s classmate Doris Ilic, who juggled schoolwork with varsity basketball and volleyball to claim the status of salutatorian, feels similar about her waning days of high school.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s sad. I loved high school,” she said. “But I’m excited to move on.”
She will never forget her time at North Bergen High School; not the friends she made, nor the experiences she had. She especially will not forget her senior prom, which she called “beautiful.”
But Ilic is ready for the next step. In September, she heads to Ramrapo University to pursue a biology degree, and then, hopefully, to medical school. Inspired by a cousin who is a doctor, she hopes to do great things in the field of medicine.
“I would like to be a surgeon, but we’ll see what happens,” she said.
Guidance counselor Janet Menzel was honored to know both Rivera and Ilic, as their counselor.
“They’re great, great super-duper kids,” she said. “They’re of awesome quality; charismatic girls.”
Students from both North Bergen and Guttenberg attend NBHS.
Menzel had great praise as well for the whole senior class, which she described as very special.
“They just seem to be very positive; very positive and energetic,” Menzel said. “This class seems to have a great connection – and that’s what makes memories. They’re one of the greatest groups I’ve ever had the pleasure of having to deal with and be a counselor for.”
For the last year, Stephanie Tejada was the leader of that group, as senior class president.
She now readies for her fall studies at Rutgers University in Newark, where she will have a major in criminology and a minor in anthropology.
“I’m very excited, but I’m definitely going to miss walking the hallways next year,” she said. By graduating North Bergen High, she will be leaving a “family” of students, administrators, teachers, and other staff.
“Everybody’s always there for each other. I felt like everyone’s there for me, and that’s important,” Tejada said. “It goes beyond education. They’re there for you on a personal level. It’s a special connection.”
She will fondly recall her work on the student government, Municipal Drug Alliance and the DECA Club, a business organization.
“Senior year was great, because as president, I was very involved with the student body,” she said. “It just felt really good to be involved. Your senior year is your legacy.”
North Bergen students were accepted into at least 90 different post-secondary institutions, including colleges and universities, business and trade schools, and the military.
They include Ball State University, Barry University, Bergen County Community College, Berklee College of Music, Berkeley College, Brigham Young University, Burlington County Community College, Caldwell College, Centenary College, Central Piedmont Community College, Chestnut Hill College, City University of New York, College of Staten Island, Columbia University, Concordia University, Cornell University, Drew University, Drexel University, Eastwick College, Essex County College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Also, Felician College, Florida International University, Fordham University, Fork Union Military Academy, Franklin and Marshall College, Frostburg University, Full Sail University, Hudson County Community College, Hunter College, Iona College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Johnson & Wales University, Kean University, Kutztown University, Lehigh University, Lincoln Technical Institute, Long Island University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Mercy College, Messiah College, Monmouth University, Montclair University and Mount Saint Mary College.
Additionally, Mount Wachusett Community College, Neumann College, New Jersey City University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Northeastern University, Nyack Christian College, Ocean County Community College, Ohio State University, Pace University, Passaic County Community College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Philadelphia University of Sciences, Purdue University, Queens College, Ramrapo College of New Jersey, Rider University, Rutgers University and St. John’s University.
Along with St. Peter’s College, Sanford Brown Institute, St. Thomas of Aquinas, Seton Hall University, Somerset Community College, Southern Vermont College, Steven’s Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, The College of New Jersey, Trinity Valley Community College, University of Delaware, University of Michigan, University of New Hampshire, University of New Haven, University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rhode Island, University of Florida, University of South Florida, University of Texas, United States Army, United States Navy, Vaughn College of Aeronautics, William Paterson University and Wood-Tobe Coburn School.
All are welcome to attend the outdoor graduation, according to Principal Pat Tennaro. However, if inclement weather forces festivities inside, only ticket holders will be allowed into the two distinct ceremonies that morning.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.