EDISON – Eagles soared and Hawks flew as the Edison Township School District celebrated the Class of 2022 with much needed ‘normal’ pomp and circumstance.
The district held individual graduations for Edison High School (EHS), its 63rd annual commencement; and John P. Stevens High School (JP), its 58th annual commencement, on June 17.
The graduation ceremonies for the high schools were back at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
“While March 2020 seems like a long time ago, we’re still dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 virus and all of you have dealt with it for the entirety of your high school careers,” Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen said. “Graduating high school during these turbulent times was not easy and all of you ought to be commended for sitting here today.”
Bragen told the Class of 2022 to “fight for what you believe.”
“My advice is to always be true to that inner voice that we all have, that inner voice that reminds us of what’s important to us,” he said, adding “the road ahead will not be easy.” “Choose a path aligned to your goals and never, never give up.”
During the ceremonies, Bragen and school officials were joined by members of the Edison Board of Education and Mayor Sam Joshi.
Edison High School
Principal Charles Ross said as the Class 2022 embarks on their respective futures after “four disjointed years,” he urged the class to continue “to make this whole world, your world, better.”
“It’s your generation,” he said. “The eyes of this audience, the internet, the world, are all upon you. In company with like-minded graduates in the Class of 2022, you guys can bring … the elimination of hate, reduction of disease, security for the rights we hold dear. I challenge you this task will not be an easy one.”
Ross said he has “full confidence” in the Class of 2022’s “courage and devotion to service.” He told the class to remember the “four ‘Rs’ to Eagle pride – Respect, Readiness, Responsibility and Red and Gold.”
Srinidhi Venkatesh, valedictorian, and Vasumathi Venkat, salutatorian, delivered their respective speeches.
Vasumathi, who is heading to Princeton University in the fall, said life is like a beach as “desires, goals and relationships” often drift onto its shores and sometimes get carried away by the waves.
“When it’s time, they [desires, goals and relationships] come to you, change you and part ways with you,” she said.
Vasumathi said the past should be a “buoy, not an anchor.”
“We might not understand why life happens the way it does, but rest assure, the past is understandably the best it could have been,” she told her peers. “Look to the future because the best is yet to come.”
Srinidhi, who is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, in the fall, said she went around speaking to her peers and teachers as she prepared her valedictorian speech.
As she went around, moments were shared from “catching a chicken sandwich at a pep rally” and “finding everyone dressed as (actor) Adam Sandler on spirit day,” to “putting a cup of instant ramen into a time capsule” and “dancing with a big group for charity.”
“These are not life changing moments, but they will be what each of you will remember 20 years from now,” she said.
Srinidhi asked her peers to reflect on their moments at EHS. She thanked her class for helping her find one of her moments as she delivered her speech.
John P. Stevens High School
Principal Anthony Shallop said the Class of 2022 has shown resiliency with the challenges of the past two years.
“This class is a symbol of perseverance and dedication,” he said.
Shallop urged the class to use their accomplishments to improve the world around them.
“Give back to those around you and pay it forward,” he said. “This mindset is paramount especially in today’s world. By continuing to challenge yourself and giving back, you will continue to see even greater and meaningful success.”
Michael Galsim, valedictorian, and Owen Shen, salutatorian, delivered their respective speeches.
Owen, who also served as class president, said attending JP has been like “living in another world.”
“No other place can you get the experience we had here,” he said, with “an incredibly diverse, multicultural student body, a wide array of opportunities, both in academics and extracurriculars, a dedicated and diligent selection of faculty members.. .”
Owen, who is heading to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. in the fall, said as they all move on, he will always be “rooting” the successes of his peers.
“I know some of you dream of running the world, but it’s so much more important to be able to change someone’s world,” he said. “If you see someone struggling, reach out. Inspire someone to improve themselves, show appreciation for someone’s efforts. Bring about a better life for those around you. [Use] your resources to light a day for someone else … you still have the opportunity to make a positive impact on just one other person. In fact, I know you are all capable of changing someone’s world because you already have done so for me.”
Michael said the Class of 2022 is full of people with incredible accomplishments. He urged his peers to continue to “focus on what you love.”
“If you lean into what makes you unique and happy, everything falls into place,” he said.
Michael, who is heading to Rutgers University in the fall, further urged his peers to “be different in your own way” and not care what others think.
“Your opinion of yourself matters far more than anyone else,” he said. “You can find a way to live your life and be content with it. Our increasingly capitalist society may grant you as a failure, but again who cares. You’re going to be happy with your own life and the rest of them are too focused on the rush and grind to step back and realize, there are so many different paths towards fulfillment.
“Remember your life is what you and only you make of it. So be proud of what you create. Take a step back and think … we got this.”