Lawrence High School seniors’ spirits were as high as the clouds in the sky on the afternoon of June 20, as they set off to chart their course for life after high school.
The 320-strong Lawrence High School Class of 2018 gathered together for the last time at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, joined on the floor by nearly a dozen members of the Class of 1968 – the first class to graduate from the new Lawrence High School.
As the Lawrence High School Concert Band played, the 11 men and women who graduated from Lawrence High School 50 years ago strode onto the floor, clad in distinctive yellow gowns. They led the procession of Lawrence Township Public Schools administrators, Board of Education members, faculty and staff.
The seniors, clad in red gowns and mortarboard caps, waited patiently for their turn to enter the center court. Some students had decorated their caps with everything from the colleges they plan to attend, to simple messages such as “Four Years Later” and “Just Done It.”
The band played the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” as the seniors made their way onto the floor. Some smiled and waved to family members and friends, others mugged for the camera, and a few walked out purposefully onto the floor.
Once her classmates had settled into their seats, class President Samantha Posluszny welcomed her classmates, their families and friends to the graduation ceremony – a day that was “a distant dream” on their first day as freshmen.
The Class of 2018 is a class of milestones, not the least of which is being the first graduating class whose members were born in the 21st century, Samantha said. It is the 50th graduating class from Lawrence High School, she added.
Noting that members of the first graduating class were in attendance, Samantha called on them to stand up. She told them the Class of 2018 hopes it “has done you justice with our endless love for our school.”
Turning to her classmates, Samantha asked them to take one last look at each other, because now it is time to fly from the cardinal’s nest. They will find other nests – maybe in a new state or a new town, she said.
“Always remember to fly high and do big things, but never forget the cardinal’s nest you came from. As our first-year alums represent, no matter how far you fly, you will always be able to find your way back to this special nest,” Samantha said.
Two of the first-year alumni had special words to offer the seniors as they prepared to join the ranks of Lawrence High School alumni.
Lawrence High School has prepared them to become leaders in their chosen fields, said Steven Groeger, a member of the first graduating class. He retired as Lawrence Township’s superintendent for recreation.
Groeger reeled off a list of alumni who have made their mark – from Patricia Fiorella Russo of the Class of 1969, who was the chief executive officer for Lucent Technology and Eastman Kodak, to Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” and Comedy Central fame. He graduated in 1980 as Jon Leibowitz.
Glenn Myernick of the Class of 1972 played soccer professionally and coached the U.S. Men’s World Cup team in Germany. John Schneider of the Class of 1998 played professional baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, Groeger said.
“Success is not only measured by winning awards, accolades or honors,” he said. “It is completing what you started. When you further your education or learn a trade, you are a success. Raise a family, volunteer to help the less fortunate and you will continue to succeed.
“There is no end to the ways you can and will succeed. Go out and make your mark in this world and maybe in 50 years at the Class of 2068 graduation, someone will mention you and your success,” Groeger said.
Joan Mitchell Galloway, of the Class of 1968, advised the students to focus on one task or issue at a time. She told them they will be OK and to enjoy and be mindful of the journey as it unfolds.
“All who have come before you once sat where you are now, with a bunch of invisible thought bubbles over our heads, mostly question marks. (But) we found our way, individually and with the help of others,” Galloway said.
Valedictorian Josh Drossman admitted he could not offer words of wisdom or predict what the future will bring. But that is what is so amazing about life – no one knows what to expect, he said.
“Life is an open book. Each day, you write a page. Sometimes, one gets ripped out and lost along the way as memories fade, but there is always a blank one ready to be filled in,” Josh said. “Every end is just the start of a new beginning. This might be an end to your days as a high schooler, but tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Principal David Adam told the seniors that “we have had the opportunity in Lawrence Township to collectively help each and every one of you develop your vision for the future.”
“Today, we have come to the point where we turn the obligation of decision-making and vision for your future to each of you. We look forward to seeing where your life’s journeys take you,” Adam said.
Then, one by one, the seniors walked up to the podium to receive a handshake and a diploma.
After the last senior received a diploma, it was time to turn the tassel on their mortarboards and to join the long line of Lawrence High School alumni.