More than 150 graduating High Tech High School students made their foray into the real world Tuesday night, graduating at the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center in Secaucus. High Tech is a public countywide high school located in North Bergen, to which students must apply for admission.
Principal Joseph Giammarella, who has served in the position for four years, said he was proud of the 151 graduates, lauding their maturity, academic excellence, and civic-mindedness.
“Just their ability to work together as a team was impressive; their ability to work together as a group,” he said. “They were very school oriented. They do a lot of community service at school, as well as community service in the community.”
That service spirit manifested itself in many ways; through book and blood drives, breast cancer awareness walks, and other events.
“They’re constantly doing something every day. We recently did a fundraiser, ‘Jeans for GIs,’ ” Giammarella said. “We have no dress code, so if students donated $5, we allowed them to wear jeans to school. They raised close to $1,000 in one day.”
The students have strong educational goals for their next stage of their lives, according to the principal.
“Every one of them will go on to higher education,” Giammarella said. “Even though it’s a technical school, their aspirations are to higher ed.” Graduates have been accepted to New York University and the Ivy League schools of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University, among others.
“I think they’re a very, very happy senior class, and we’re very sorry to see them go.” – Teacher Chris De Pierro
Virtually all of the Tech graduates are going straight to post-secondary education. One is going into the military, and then to college. Most of them will go with some type of financial aid. The graduating class had been awarded $9 million in scholarships as of June 20.
“The focus of the mission of the school has changed over the years from strictly a vocational institution to a more comprehensive high school, or college prep high school,” Giammarella said.
“We still have vocations. We still have all of our students taking technical courses. The focus when the school started was to get the kids into a vocation or a career. But now the focus has shifted form a career path to get them college ready and career ready.”
At the graduation, the students were lamenting their high school years ending, but looking forward to the new challenges awaiting them.
Summer Rosenfeld of Weehawken cited her mix of sadness and joy.
“I’m nervous, but excited. I can’t really express it. I just about cried hugging one of my teachers. I don’t know where the last four years went,” she said. “One of things I’ll say about this school is the teachers are amazing. I wouldn’t be the person I am without them.”
Rosenfeld is looking forward to her new journey, though, as she heads to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to pursue a political science degree, with a goal of eventually being an attorney.
“I’m a little nervous, but excited too, about going to college and having new experiences,” said Christina Sanchez of Jersey City. She will be studying interior design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark in the fall.
Alexander Rodriguez of North Bergen said his path will be different; first the armed services, then college. He joined the U.S. Navy two months ago and will be reporting to Pensacola, Fla., soon to become a sailor.
“This is my goal in life, to become a Navy SEAL, and then get an education,” he said. “I’d like to become an educated person and find something to do. I like business a lot, so I’ll be looking into that.”
Patrick Cahill of Bayonne had a dual role at the ceremony. Not only was he graduating, he played a bagpipes selection that launched the evening’s proceedings. Cahill will attend Norwich University in Vermont for television production.
Tech High teachers had high praise for the graduating students.
“They’re great kids, and I wish them all the best,” said Peter Turro, chef instructor. “I was most amazed with the kids musically and artistically. They’re very talented.”
“I think they’re a very, very happy senior class, and we’re very sorry to see them go,” said Chris De Pierro, TV production teacher.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.