Pomp and unusual circumstances

Monroe Township High School Class of 2021 valedictorian Audrey Lynch

After a year of unique challenges, the Monroe Township High School Class of 2021 graduates on June 21




Monroe Township High School (MTHS) sent off its Class of 2021 with an in-person ceremony June 21 at Trenton’s Cure Insurance Arena.

Principal Dr. Kevin Higgins shared his pride in the Class of 2021, noting that their tenacity has been on full display throughout the latter half of their high school experience.

“You have had a senior year like no other,” he said, adding that they stared down challenges even beyond those the preceding class faced. “When I think about you … there there are many words that come to mind: strength, resiliency and perseverance are just a few of the attributes that I believe you have developed through your time at MTHS.”

Higgins noted that among the myriad real-life crash-course lessons each student internalized throughout the past 14 months, empathy ought to reign supreme.

“I hope you have also learned about the value of others,” he said. “None of this would be possible without the unconditional love and support of your parents and guardians. … The wonderful accomplishments of our students and the future achievements of our graduates would not be possible without the support and efforts of our teaching staff.”

District Superintendent Dori Alvich reminded students they have a promising road ahead, encouraging them to face it with the confidence that they can take on any obstacle the world sets in their path.

“Your future starts today,” she said. “As you leave Monroe Township High School, what I’m asking from each of you … is to meet future challenges with your head held high and your heart open. It’s not enough to simply try to get by in life: You must strive for excellence.”

Alvich also implored students to always remember to be kind to themselves and others, follow their dreams, and be grateful for all the good and gifts in their lives.

Board of Education President Michele Arminio commended the day’s graduates for the ways they’ve grown as they navigated a senior year “that has been anything but predictable” and interfered mightily with what should have been a year of typical traditions.

“You have had to handle unprecedented sets of firsts and lasts due to the realities we have all had to face in this last year,” she said. “But in spite of the challenges of this unique year, you are here. You have emerged successful. And you have learned the lessons of perseverance and courage that weren’t part of the curriculum.”

Salutatorian Sukrut Oak, who will be heading to Stanford University to study mathematics and social sciences this fall, was noted for his bevy of honors, activities and achievements. Among them: National Honor Society, Ro Kappa Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America and MTHS Mathletes president.

Oak first expressed his gratitude to his family and a number of positive influences along the way. He then congratulated his graduating peers and joked that despite being tasked with offering them life advice in his speech, “There’s still a lot I don’t know.”

“As seniors, there’s some part of us that’s excited to enter the world of adulthood, to embrace the freedoms that come along with being an adult,” Oak said. “But there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear that accompanies us as we make this transition.”

What he did know, however, is that each graduating Falcon is feeling the same torrent of conflicting emotions, from excitement for the future to a bittersweet hesitancy over leaving the familiar behind—and that the memories each graduate carries with them means that home and community never really get left behind.

The many accomplishments of valedictorian Audrey Lynch also preceded her speech: National Honor Society president, a member of the English, Science and Spanish honor societies, first-chair oboist for the wind ensemble honors band, and captain of the girls varsity soccer team.

She will be attending Northeastern University as a member of its honors program and majoring in molecular and cell biology with a minor in gender/sexuality studies and Spanish.

Lynch began by saying that, up until the past year, she’s had her sights set on becoming a doctor, the only career she saw for herself since she was a young child. After talking about the counterproductive fear born of trying to please others—including one’s past selves—she drew attention to the symbolism of the pink suit and blue shoes she wore with her high school’s purple gown.

“Pink, purple and blue are the colors of the bi[sexuality] pride flag … and June is Pride Month,” Lynch began.

“Yes, this is me coming out,” she continued as the arena erupted in cheers and applause.

Lynch said it was important to begin her next chapter as her most authentic self, though she began the day hesitant to do so in such a public fashion when “homophobia, biphobia, transphobia [are] very, very real in this town.”

She cited how some classmates—“you know who you are”—openly used the word “gay” as an insult, mocked others’ pronouns on Zoom, and told someone close to Lynch to complete suicide for being neither straight nor cisgender.

Lynch added that “religion, physical appearance, neurodiversity, ethnicity, race” were also fodder for insults and offenses she witnessed.

Her reasoning for coming out and addressing these problems, Lynch explained, was because Pride is a month of celebration but “that with celebration must come conversation.”

“I hope that when people leave here today, at the very least, they start to talk about what I addressed because it’s a conversation that really needs to be had,” she concluded.

Once all the diplomas were presented, Higgins addressed the Class of 2021 one last time.

“Congratulations,” he announced as caps flew through the air and the cheers rang through the crowd. “On behalf of Monroe Township High School, the ceremony is yours!”

The graduation ceremony can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=X2Y3yDa3Tc4

Monroe Township High School Class of 2021 salutatorian Sukrut Oak

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