HOPEWELL: Central High School graduates look forward to lives ahead

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The Hopewell Valley Central High School choir

Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Under the setting sun on a warm summer night, nearly 300 Hopewell Valley Central High School seniors closed the first chapter of many more to come in their young lives.
As family and friends watched, the Class of 2017 – giddy with excitement – gathered on Ackerson Field to collect their diplomas and say their goodbyes to childhood.
Two by two and clad in black gowns and mortarboard caps, the seniors filed onto the athletic field. Some waved to family members, and one boy gave a playful punch to a classmate.
And as if to keep score, the scoreboard on Ackerson Field was lit up to read “2017.”
Class President Madison Parker welcomed the attendees to the graduation ceremony, noting that it marks the culmination of 13 years of schooling. The classmates held pep rallies, built robots, made music and stayed up late to study.
They counted the days until graduation – “and now it is here,” Madison said. They are about to enter a new community, and it is time to make their mark on the world.
Noting that many people do not have the advantages that they do, Madison urged her classmates not to shut the door behind them, but to reach back through it and help others.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” she said.
Class Vice President Bridget Anzano reminded the class of the hard work that it took to reach this point. All of that schoolwork laid a foundation for success, she said.
Class speaker Clare Garrity said high school is a “strange middle ground.” It’s just four years, 144 weeks, 720 days – and that’s about how long the classmates spent together, although it seems shorter than that, she said.
Comparing their progression through high school to the days of the week, today is Friday, Clare said. Tomorrow is Saturday, and “you won’t see the person next to you” because of college and travel, she said.
While tradition calls for a class valedictorian and a class salutatorian, there was such a small difference in the scores of the top two students that it was impossible to make the call – so Daniel Kolano and Noan Miller shared the podium.
Taking turns to speak, they said that through 13 years of schooling, they made friends and grew into adults – “or large children.” The classmates have experienced the full range of life and in the coming weeks, they will part ways.
Daniel and Noam encouraged their classmates to cherish the few months they have left together, and to pull their friends close. Don’t try to take the journey alone, they said.
Hopewell Borough Mayor Paul Anzano, who was invited to speak, said that it is easy to lose sight of who the students are and what they should be doing – but every now and then, one can see they are young men and women. That’s one of the “wow” moments, he said.
And although it has taken 13 years to get to this point, Hopewell Valley Central High School Principal Tana J. Smith said, the students learned all they need to know in kindergarten.
Play fair, don’t hit the person next to you, put things back where you found them, don’t take what isn’t yours – “the police won’t like that” – and live a balanced life, Smith said.
Superintendent of Schools Thomas A. Smith thanked the parents for entrusting their children to the school district, adding that he hoped it was a good experience.
Smith also noted that two of the soon-to-be graduates are entering the military, and a third one is entering the U.S. Naval Academy. He thanked them for their willingness to protect the United States of America.
And then it was time for the seniors to turn the tassels on their mortarboard caps, creating the next group of Hopewell Valley Central High School alumni.