Hail the Weehawken Class of 2000; First graduating class of new millennium heads to new horizons
The 60th commencement exercises at Weehawken High School, honoring the Class of 2000, were drawing to a close last Tuesday night, but you could tell that the principal, Dr. Peter Olivieri, didn't want to let go. Olivieri stood behind each graduate, placed his hands upon his or her shoulders, and proudly read off his or her academic record, much like a hawker at a circus. The pride oozed from the principal in every word he said about each and every kid, as if they were his own. "I could stay here all night long talking about these kids," Olivieri told the tepid audience of approximately 500 people who fanned themselves to get relief from the heat. "There's an awful lot of memories right here on this stage." Olivieri had a right to be proud about this class. It was a graduating class filled to the brim with academic excellence, a group that collected nearly $1 million in scholarships, grants and aid for college. It was a graduating class that had no peers in terms of extracurricular participation, with practically every single student involved with two or more class activities. It was a graduating class that acted for the past four years more like one gigantic collective unit, 65 members strong, instead of a jumbled mass of individuals. Like it was a family reunion of sorts, collected in front of an audience, wearing black and red caps and gowns. "This class was involved in so many extracurricular activities," said Mary Bea Kingwill, a teacher and advisor on the Academic Team. "Right across the board, they all got involved in everything. They were very talented in a lot of ways, especially the arts. They could do any activity. They really had it all." Lydia Bazikian delivered the valedictory address, while Ingred Wilson gave the salutatory speech. Bazikian, who received a total of three individual achievement awards during the course of the evening, will attend Rutgers University's Douglass College in the fall. Wilson, who also received three academic achievement awards during the graduation ceremony, will attend Cornell University. Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan addressed the students and presented the students for graduation. "Tonight marks perhaps the most important night of your lives," McLellan said. "Longtime friendships will begin to fade and you will begin to experience new situations, either in college or in the work field. The skills you have learned at Weehawken High School will be put to the test. It's up to you to respond to the challenge and become problem solvers. As long as you always keep in sight helping those who are less fortunate." Board of Education member Joseph McLaughlin, a professor at St. Peter's College, represented the Board in addressing the graduates. "Don't take the responsibility of college lightly," McLaughlin said. "Always be a part of the passionate learning community and respect others along the way. And never forget where the whole journey started." Board of Education President Richard Barsa presented the graduates with their diplomas. Soon after, like Olivieri promised, the Class of 2000 were on their way, to meet and greet the proud people in the audience, armed with their cameras, balloons and wide smiles, before heading off to Project Graduation, which was held at APA Trucking Center in North Bergen. Needless to say, it was a memorable evening for all of the graduates, the 60th graduating class of Weehawken High and the first of the new millennium.