Eagles soared, Hawks flew as high schools in Edison celebrated the Class of 2020 virtually

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EDISON – Eagles soared and Hawks flew as the Edison Township School District celebrated the Class of 2020 with virtual pomp and circumstance.

The district held individual virtual graduations for Edison High School, its 61st annual commencement; and John P. Stevens High School, its 56th annual commencement, on June 16 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Graduation ceremonies for the high schools normally are held back to back at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.

Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen and principals of the elementary and middle schools in the township congratulated the Class of 2020. The students appeared virtually from their respective homes for the ceremony.

The ceremonies included musical selections from the Edison High School Chamber Singers at the direction of Kenneth Brown and John P. Stevens High School Chamber Ensemble at the direction of Andrew Denicola.

The virtual senior awards and graduation ceremonies are on YouTube.

The Edison community honked their car horns, banged pots and pans and yelled congratulatory remarks in support of the graduating seniors on the last day of school.

Edison township police and fire departments participated in the community-wide event by blaring their sirens and flashing their lights at the same time to help make it a true community-wide event.

Edison High School

When Shruti Garg left Edison High School and hopped in her car in mid-March to beat the senior traffic out of the parking lot, she didn’t know it would be her last time she would see all her classmates.

Fast forward four months later, it seems like a “different time all together,” Shruti said as she delivered her valedictorian speech.

“Now going into the future of a global pandemic, social revolution, and a possible economic depression, it’s valid to worry about the future or to mourn the past,” she said

Shruti called on her classmates to be proud of the past four years, proud of staying close to relationships made in the midst of the pandemic through Zoom, driveby birthday parties, and virtual sleepovers, proud of the community coming together during the trying times, and proud of the caring support around them.

“Even though our senior year wasn’t what we imagined it would be and our future holds the unknown, we’ve adapted, we will continue adapting and we will all be better for it,” she said.

Shruti called on her fellow classmates to focus on the people around them.

“As the world changes, the people within, the people we love, that always stays constant,” she said.

Shruti is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. In high school, she was heavily involved with the Academy of Science Club, which organizes science events and competitions.

She helped organize the school’s first Science Olympiad team, which competed in the 28th annual state finals of the New Jersey Science Olympiad held at Middlesex County College on March 10.

Shruti also served as co-captain of the school’s math team and girls tennis team.

Following the virtual graduation ceremony, Shruti said she was “really touched” by the community clap out, the “sweet message” in the sky from a banner plane for the class, and the way the district has “tried to make our commencement just as special as always.”

Shruti said the virtual commencement was memorable and she looks forward to a possible physical graduation later this year.

Edison High School’s Principal Charles Ross said as the Class of 2020 leave the Eagles’ nest, he called on the class to use its “voice to spread your wisdom and ears and knowledge you’ve gained here to help you listen, understand and empathize.”

Brian Chan, who will attend Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy in the fall, delivered the salutatorian speech calling for his classmates to blaze their own trail and embrace themselves as individuals.

“Don’t compare yourself to others … never stop being you,” he said.

Keeping with tradition, Stacey Zhang, senior class president, and Malachi White, student council president, addressed their peers at the end of the ceremony.

John P. Stevens High School 

John P. (JP) Stevens High School Principal Anthony Shallop said the school’s motto this year was “If not me, then who?”

“This mindset is paramount in our world today,” he said. “If you don’t take on challenges and do your part to make the world a better place, who will? By continuing to challenging yourself, you will see continual, even greater, more meaningful success.”

Akshath Shevetang Anna delivered the valedictorian speech.

As the Class of 2020 moves on to the next chapter in their journeys, Akshath urged his classmates to reflect on the bonds created with friends, relationships made with teachers, lessons learned, and challenges overcome.

“The attitudes and virtues of the community, that defines our high school experience,” he said, not the physical school building or grades.

Akshath said they will remember the coronavirus, but remember it as a time when the JP community came together and overcame it.

“That will be our keepsake,” he said.

Rachel Tam delivered the salutatorian speech. She said it’s important to stay resilient during this time, continue to dream and take all dreams and make them realities.

During the virtual ceremony, Irene Quan, addressed her peers as senior class president.