On June 25, the Weehawken High School Class of 2010 kicked off the next leg of their journey with an intimate ceremony attended by close family and friends.
The Weehawken High School Jazz Ensemble provided musical selections that had the students on stage clapping along, including “Sunday Afternoon” and “Soul Bossa Nova” – better known as “that song from the Austin Powers movie.”
The first diploma of the night was handed to the valedictorian, a common practice. Not so common was that the fact that the diploma was handed to the student by his own father – Mayor Richard Turner.
“Everyone has the potential to be whatever they want in this world.” – Richard Turner Jr.
Regarding graduating, he told the audience, “I can’t quite decide where I stand about it. While I am sad to be graduating, I can’t help but be excited.”
The young Turner is headed to Johns Hopkins University, a prestigious university in Maryland, in the fall.
He enjoyed a moment of looking back on senior year memories with his classmates, but said that it is also a time to look forward. “Everyone is different, everyone is unique,” said Turner Jr., “And everyone has the potential to be whatever they want in this world.”
He contemplated what types of careers he and his friends might have years from now, but ultimately urged his fellow graduates to “create your own future in your mind, and then find the will to act upon it.”
Special recognition for students and teachers
Dr. Peter Olivieri, the principal of Weehawken High School, lauded the graduating class for their achievements and diversity.
Students in the 2010 graduating class were born in 17 different countries, from the Soviet Union to South America. Ninety-three percent of them have been accepted to college. Others will go on to special tech schools or into the workforce.
“The economy may be bad,” said Olivieri. “But it’s not bad for these students.” He noted that the 2010 class raised a large amount of financial aid – approximately $93,414 per student.
In Weehawken High School tradition, teachers were recognized by the students and principal for their hard work. In particular, the crowd roared and rose to their feet when popular foods teacher Allan Hecht, who drives 75 miles a day to the school, was honored.
“My hair is a little bit thinner and a little bit grayer because of you,” Hecht joked with the students. “I love you all. I love Weehawken.”
Words of wisdom and of praise
Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan said because the students are graduating in “a time of economic and political unrest,” it will take courage and the ability to think outside the box in order to face dilemmas.
“Leave here tonight knowing that the love and support that brought you to this point will always continue,” he said.
School Board President Richard Barsa said the excellence of the students is the reason that Weehawken High School is rated in the top 3 percent of high schools nationwide, according to US News and World Report.
While he encouraged the students to continue working hard in order to achieve success, he also recommended they take a moment every now and then to sit back and enjoy life.
The celebration continued
After the official festivities, students boarded buses to head over to Stevens Institute of Technology for a night of fun during Project Graduation. Project Graduation is an annual school-sponsored party that keeps high school students from attending private parties after graduation at which they might drink and drive. Instead, they are kept in one place that is alcohol-free.
“We haven’t lost a kid in 20 years,” Olivieri said. “I think that’s great.”
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at email@example.com.