‘Embrace times of change’

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Hillsborough High School Class of 2023 mark their next chapter

The 584 seniors of the Hillsborough High School Class of 2023 turned their red tassels marking their next chapter during the 52nd annual graduation ceremony at the Rutgers Athletic Center, now the Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, June 22.

Senior Class President Joseph Kozimbo

“It’s a bittersweet day,” Senior Class President Joseph Kozimbo said, noting although they may have been strangers coming together from different elementary schools, their class has grown into a close-knit community since middle school.

“Our high school experience was definitely unique. Freshman year, we were told to take a two-week break. A year later, we were still on that two-week break. Taking classes in our pajamas, realizing our much-anticipated brand new chrome books were actually surprisingly slow and coming to understanding the importance of in person relationships.”

When the Class of 2023 finally returned in person, they went through the changes of different school principals and administrators and continually adapted to revolving rule changes in schools and in larger society.

“While we may have struggled in moments of change, I think there were also moments of growth,” Kozimbo said. “We learned how to be flexible and resilient, discovered ways to cope through challenges, found new hobbies in times at home and became more independent. And yes, while many of these changes were indeed unwanted by the products of a global pandemic, there was a silver lining.

“We learned that change brings new experiences and new experiences bring growth. As we move forward from our high school years, let us embrace times of change, actively seek new experiences and continue to welcome the uncertainty that is all too certain in life.”

Salutatorian Saikalyan Jogannagari

Saikalyan Jogannagari delivered the salutatorian speech. He told the crowd that academics took precedence for much of his time in high school. Until school responsibilities decreased in intensity and senioritis began kicking in, he started to realize the importance of spending time with friends and the people that truly matter in his life.

He told his peers to think about the lyrics of rapper Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, “We hurt people that love us, love people that hurt us.”

“As he so eloquently points out, it’s often times the people that matter most in our lives that we take for granted, only to realize the importance much too late in life,” he said.

“As we all enter the next phases of our lives, regardless of what your plans may be for the next few years, remember that the people that care about you make life worth living, so don’t neglect them.”

Valedictorian Allison Lee

Valedictorian Allison Lee spoke about time.

“When we walked through the doors as freshmen, 2023 was a year that felt far away, but here we are,” she said. “And as the year winds down I keep coming back to the same thought, I only wish that I had more time.

“… Twenty-four hours can be experienced so differently whether you wanna sleep in and have a pajama day to finally getting to write that resume or to drop everything to travel to unknown places, you get to make that choice of what you want to do with those 24 hours.

“… So as we move those tassels and toss our caps, I hope you realize that the perfect time to accomplish everything that you have put off to later, everything that you have been afraid to try and everything that you’ve dreamt of, is now,” Lee said, imploring her peers not to rush through life.

Principal Jeffrey DiLollo said his wish for the graduates is to leave Hillsborough High School with a growing sense of accomplishment of the challenges of the past four years and taking those personal tools and approaches they have created as they move on to greater heights.

During the speeches, Kozimbo announced the senior class gifts are donations to GiGi’s Playhouse Hillsborough, a nonprofit organization offering foundational learning opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community, as well as donations towards various improvements around the high school campus including the purchase of additional water bottle filling stations.