Seniors came together on the baseball diamond at Trenton Thunder Ballpark to mark Hightstown High School’s 107th annual graduation ceremony.
Friends and family members took their seats in the stands surrounding the baseball field, holding up umbrellas for shade – not rain – and fanning themselves with the high school graduation ceremony program booklets on June 17.
Student Council President Peri Luther welcomed the attendees and acknowledged East Windsor Regional School District Board of Education members, as well as school district administrators.
Luther also announced the names of five seniors who will be entering the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as two seniors who won appointments to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Then to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance,” the seniors filed onto the baseball field, two by two – the boys in blue caps and gowns, the girls in white caps and gowns. Some of the seniors waved to family and friends in the stands, while some spectators in the stands waved to the seniors.
School board member Ram Ramachandran welcomed the graduating class and their families and friends. Noting that the class’s high school experience was interrupted by two years of COVID-19 measures, the seniors came back “with a bang” for their last year of high school, he said.
He said the class “proved to be resilient and they did not miss a beat.”
“The lesson is that excellence is possible in every circumstance,” Ramachandran said.
Hightstown High School Principal Dennis Vinson quickly followed and said that the Class of 2022’s only so-called “normal year” of high school was their freshman year. He said he remembers challenging the students to make the most of their four years of high school.
Although the middle years of their high school careers were not typical because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they still showed up for each other and made the most of their time at Hightstown High School, Vinson said.
Postponing athletic events and activities were among the “hardest things” Vinson said he had to do during the pandemic. However, the reactions from students “floored” him.
“They took it in stride, showing resolve and accepting disappointment. The Class of 2022 is a stand-out class,” he said.
“My hope for the Class of 2022 is that you will continue to show up. You will be the leaders in your family, workplace and community. You will be the people that others want to show up for,” Vinson said.
Senior class president Maria Torres Alvarez told her classmates that the day they had waited for – graduation day – was finally here, marking the end of their high school years.
Her voice wavering, Maria shared her grandfather died several days before her graduation. It was an experience that taught her that life can be short and unexpected, but “you have to keep pushing on, no matter what obstacles are in front of us. Let this day be a lesson to celebrate life.”
At the risk of sounding cliché, Maria said, it felt like yesterday that she and her classmates were freshmen who were listening to the seniors as they explained the inner workings of Hightstown High School. And now, they are those seniors.
“The point is, we are doing something that we never thought was possible 1,378 days ago. We accomplished what seemed impossible,” Maria said, referring to graduation.
“Graduation means goodbye. There will be no more special meetings and other moments that made high school special. But to quote Dr. Seuss ‘Let’s not cry because it’s over. Let’s smile because it happened’,” she said.
Hightstown High School Assistant Principal Jermaine Blount, who was chosen to be the faculty speaker, reminded the seniors of a letter that he wrote to them earlier in their academic careers. In that letter, he urged them to become involved and to grow, develop and explore.
“I can say to you, you did just that. You created memories that will last a lifetime. You believed in the power of an idea, and you will achieve much more because you understand the power of an idea,” Blount said.
“But an idea is not just an idea. Breaking down ‘IDEA’ into four parts, ‘I’ means intention; ‘D’ means diversity of thought; ‘E’ means pursuit of excellence; and ‘A’ means the courage to be accountable.
“Stand proud and lead. Your mind will adjust where your heart wants to go. The power of intention got you here, now use it for wherever you want to go. Be a role model.
“This is not a goodbye, this is a ‘see you later.’ You are now ready to make your mark beyond our school doors. The world is waiting for you,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Mark Daniels told the seniors that the experience of having interruptions during their four years of high school because of the COVID-19 pandemic helped them to develop strong character, patience, determination and resilience.
“We continue to be inspired by your flexibility, creativity and ability to overcome adversity. The Class of 2022 serves as a role model for grit and perseverance,” he said. “While graduation marks the end of their educational journey in the East Windsor Regional School District, it also marks a new chapter in their lives whether they are entering the military, the workplace or college.”
Daniels urged the seniors to love and appreciate their families, and to find their passion. Their time at Hightstown High School laid the foundation for a fulfilling and productive future, and the world is waiting for the impact of the Class of 2022, he said.
After the speeches, the seniors, one by one, rose from their chairs to pick up their diplomas. The class joins a long line of Hightstown High School alumni.