The six regular Jersey City public high schools will hold their individual graduation ceremonies this Wednesday, June 30, while one public charter school will hold its ceremony the same day and another already held its graduation June 17.
Meanwhile, hundreds of students from the five Catholic high schools in town already graduated from their respective schools earlier this month.
Recently, the top students at one public and two private Jersey City high schools spoke out about their experiences.
Harvard bound McNair Academic valedictorian Alberto Rivera found himself enrolling at the public magnet high school after he graduated from eighth grade at Academy I Middle School in Jersey City.
Rivera, a Jersey City Heights resident, will attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. in the fall.
“It seemed like a movie almost, like all the TV shows I had watched about high school.” – Earlene Cruz
With his graduation only few days away, Rivera looked back at high school as “some of the best” time of his young life.
“I met most of my friends here, and I was able to become more social,” Rivera said. “Also, it also changed my outlook on learning, to always try my hardest.”
Earlene Cruz looked back at receiving her diploma as St. Dominic Academy’s valedictorian as almost unreal.
“It seemed like a movie almost, like all the TV shows I had watched about high school,” said Cruz, a Union City resident. “Like ‘Glee’ or ‘DeGrassi [Junior High],’ or other shows like that.”
Cruz will attend Seton Hall University in South Orange, where she will double-major in business and French, with a career goal of international law.
As far as following the script to become the school’s top student, Cruz credits her penchant for “not procrastinating” in her studies.
Cruz’s classmate, salutatorian Francine Samson, chalked up finishing second in her class to “determination” and “ambition.” She also saw her graduation as “bittersweet.”
“It didn’t really hit me until I was looking at everybody,” said Samson, who lives in Jersey City. “A lot of these people, I wouldn’t be spending every day with anymore.”
Samson will attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where she will major in chemistry with the goal of becoming a pharmacist.
Decision made the difference
St. Peter’s Prep’s Alexander Yang will attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick and major in biology and linguistics.
He was not necessarily the top student in his class, since the school does not recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian ranking. Instead, Yang was chosen by the faculty as speaker for the graduating class, in part because he finished as one of the school’s highest-ranking students.
In a recent interview, North Bergen resident Yang remembered being “very nervous” before his speech during the first week in June. But then he found calm once he got on stage.
“I was relieved to see that I was addressing my fellow students rather than just strangers,” Yang said.
In his speech, Yang discussed his initial decision to enter St. Peter’s Prep, saying, “As I reflect upon my Prep career, I think that choosing this school has made all the difference in my life.”
Hundreds of grads
A total of 218 students graduated from St. Peter’s Prep the first week in June. In addition, there were 128 from St. Dominic, 103 from Hudson Catholic, 58 from St. Mary, and 56 from St. Anthony.
The final numbers for the public high schools holding graduations – McNair Academic, Dickinson, Ferris, Lincoln, Snyder and Liberty –were dependent on the outcome of year-end exams. But Paula Christen, spokesperson for the Jersey City school district, offered last week pre-exam graduation numbers for the following high schools: McNair Academic – 186, Dickinson – 508, Ferris – 238, Lincoln – 165, Snyder – 145, and Liberty – 38.
CREATE Charter High School, a public school, also is scheduled to hold its final graduation on Wednesday, June 30. Sixty-six students will graduate from the final class, as the school will close forever. (See cover story from June 13).
University Academy Charter High School, located on West Side Avenue in the city’s Greenville section, saw 83 students graduate from the school on June 17.
County Prep, a public high school in downtown Jersey City operated by the Hudson County Schools of Technology, is scheduled to hold its graduation of 171 seniors on June 24.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.