In a ceremony spanning from Shakespeare to selfies, Morristown High School on Wednesday graduated a “truly exceptional” group of 369 students whose achievements were “second almost to none,” according to district Superintendent Thomas Ficarra.
Ninety percent of the Class of ’14 is college-bound. But student government President Jacqueline Reingold said its story goes deeper.
“We are not defined by class rank, standardized test scores or our GPAs… we are greater than the sum of our parts,” said Reingold, who plans to study public policy at the University of Michigan.
Her classmates have volunteered for thousands of hours helping children, the homeless and the hungry, she said.
They also have played hard, producing champions in hockey, swimming, track and golf, she said. And they have worked hard, too.
“We are waitresses, lifeguards, cashiers, receptionists, camp counselors and caddies,” Reingold said, adding: “We are texters and tweeters who are permanently affixed to our phones.”
To prove her point, she snapped a selfie from the podium at Morris Township’s Mennen Arena, which was packed with family and friends cheering for their graduates at the school’s 141st commencement.
Reingold also remembered Manny Stewart, a classmate who died in 2012.
“We are one less,” she said.
HUGS AND HANDSHAKES
The senior choir gave a tuneful performance of For Good from Wicked, and members of the golden anniversary Class of ’64–including MorristownGreen.com contributor Geri Silk–were honored.
Another highlight came in the diploma line. Most students got friendly handshakes from new Principal Mark Manning. But one senior rated a big bear hug: Conor Manning, the principal’s son.
Afterward, Conor acknowledged taking some good-natured ribbing from friends when his dad became principal this year. He said it never bothered him.
“I always knew I could find someone if I needed lunch money, which was nice,” quipped the graduate, who will study computer science at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
“He’s my best friend in the whole world,” said his proud dad.
BARD FOR LIFE
In his first commencement speech as principal, Mark Manning exhorted students to heed the Bard.
Four centuries after Shakespeare penned MacBeth, people still struggle to sift truth from deception.
“Whether it is the content of modern media, the omnipresence of technology, or the false preachings of advertisers, we are inundated with the message that all that glitters is gold, a very deceptive concept that will lead to an empty and unfulfilling existence,” the principal said.
Cautioning that appearances are fleeting, he challenged graduates to “search tirelessly for what is real, what is worthy, and what is lasting.
“Ultimately, the clear sense of who you are will help you navigate the borderlands between reality and the seductive nature of illusion,” Manning said.
His boss, Morris School District Superintendent Thomas Ficarra, found inspiration in Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark
“I urge you to savor every second of what Willa Cather referred to as the ‘shining, elusive element, life itself.’ Do not let it hurry past. Make sure you do not waste it, and you spend your time, feeling, tasting and examining the sweetness of life.”
Ficarra said parents and grandparents are right: Time passes more quickly with each passing year.
He continued with Cather’s The Song of the Lark: “When we look back, the only things we cherish are those which in some way met our original want, the desire that formed in us in early youth undetected and of its own accord.”
Going forward, the superintendent told the graduates, “always remember to pursue the things you truly cherish, those aspects of you which were formed in early life by their own accord. Be sure you’re not blinded by chasing the fashion of the moment, or what you imagine others think you should do, or become.”
MORRISTOWN SPOKEN HERE
Sydney Webber, class president, noted that 19 languages are spoken at MHS–20 if you count catch phrases known only to students. She added one more, a language of diversity.
“We are entering our next phase advantageously,” she said, “because we learned the language of the world over four years at Morristown High School.”
“We should never lose our sense of wonder. That’s what makes life worth living,” advised Salutatorian Nicholas Haas.
“We should not be afraid to ask questions that seem to have no answers. Instead, we must push the boundaries of knowledge until we hit the wall. Then, we get a hammer and knock down that door– or hire the MythBusters to blow it up for us.”
Valedictorian Nicole Kramer served hamburgers as a metaphor for life, and marinated her speech with references to Hannah Montana and Julia Child.
“Often the life in front of us will seem so different than what we planned, and our burgers may turn into tacos,” Kramer said.
“So add those crunchy experiences, cheesy quotes and corny jokes. When in doubt, remember what Julia Child once said: ‘Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.'”
High school turned out well enough for Nicole Imbachi, who plans to study nursing at the County College of Morris.
“It was a mission,” she said of her MHS career. “I went through my ups and downs. It feels good to graduate.”
Asked how she felt after matriculating, Thais Da Silva smiled. “Old,” she replied.
Jared Rolle said he feels confident heading for Eastern Mississippi Community College this fall. Morristown High prepared him well, he said. Lesson one:
“Do your homework. As long as you do your homework, you’ll survive.”
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